London - Sunderland manager Gus Poyet published an open letter to the club's fans on Thursday, urging them to stay united after recent defeats to Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League and lowly Bradford City in the FA Cup.
Sunderland fans started fighting each other as their team were humbled 2-0 at League One (third tier) Bradford on Sunday, that setback coming after a poor run highlighted by ultra-cautious defensive football.
Poyet had earlier accused the fans of "living in the past" and wanting "kick-and-rush" football and some responded to the poor display at Bradford by sarcastically chanting "Gustavo Poyet -- it's always our fault."
But Poyet, Sunderland manager since October 2013, called for unity writing on the website: "During my career as a player, coach or manager, I have always had a fantastic relationship with the fans.
"Of course I went through good and bad times, successful and not so good ones, winning or losing finals, but I left every single club having a recognition from the fans for my honesty, passion and professional work.
"So let's make sure that we don't let anyone break our relationship, I promise you that I care and want to win as much as you do.
"I invite all of you to stay positive, to be strong, closer to each other and keep believing in what we started together last year, working harder to make it better this season."
Sunderland have had a poor run in the league since winning 1-0 at arch-rivals Newcastle United in the Tyne-Tees derby two months ago.
They have won only one of their last eight league matches since then, although they beat Championship (second tier) sides Leeds United and Fulham in the FA Cup. However, their FA Cup hopes ended when they were beaten by Bradford.
The Uruguayan's position at the Stadium of Light does not seem to be under any immediate threat with the board reportedly solidly behind him, but Sunderland have slipped to 15th in the table and are only two points above the relegation zone.
Sunderland are back in Premier League action on Saturday with a home match against West Bromwich Albion, with Poyet concluding: "Saturday's going to be a big game. There needs to be a reaction."