John Hartson believes Sam Allardyce has made a very clever move as Sunderland boss

Sunderland Gates

Sunderland are locked in a relegation battle with Newcastle United... and the mind-games seem to have started.

John Hartson has told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast Show, which was broadcast on TalkSPORT on 29th April, that Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce was ‘clever’ with his comments about Crystal Palace.

Palace take on one of Sunderland’s main relegation rivals Newcastle United at the weekend, and Allardyce has already started the mind-games.

The experienced boss has suggested that Newcastle will win the fixture, as Palace will be distracted by their upcoming FA Cup final against Manchester United.

"Palace are in the FA Cup final and they would all have been celebrating — they would all have been on the pop," Allardyce said. 

“They won’t be mentally ready for it and neither will Alan [Pardew], because he’ll be thinking about the final now, not thinking about Newcastle away.

“You’re not going to stop the lads celebrating having got through to a final, particularly Crystal Palace, because it’s such a good achievement for the club, the fans, Alan and the owner, there is such euphoria around the place.

“It may well serve in reverse.

"He could say, 'Off you go, lads. Go and play today and relax - the result doesn’t matter as much' and they might win. But it could go the other way: 'Ooh, I’ve had a good couple of days and I don’t want to get injured for the final, I might just stay out of that tackle.' Who knows? I suspect it might be the latter.

“So Newcastle will win on Saturday? I’d have a bet on that if I could."

Hartson feels that Allardyce has made an intelligent statement, as his comments could serve as motivation for Palace’s players at St. James’ Park.

“It was clever,” the former Celtic striker said.

“Because what he’s saying is that Palace’s players want to protect themselves - of course, they do. He’s not saying that they’re not going to try, so he’s been clever in the way that he’s put it. But basically he’s insinuating that they’ve been out and had a few beers.”

If Newcastle do beat Palace they could move above Sunderland in the Premier League standings.

The Black Cats have worked hard to move into 17th place, but they cannot afford to slip up again - with both Norwich City and Newcastle breathing down their necks.

The Magpies have gone unbeaten in their last three matches to keep the pressure on their North East rivals.

Sunderland’s last four matches this season come against Stoke City, Chelsea, Everton and Watford.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are due to face Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.

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