Steven Fletcher believes the fear of relegation ultimately caused Sunderland’s downfall that led to not just one, but two relegations back-to-back.

The Scottish striker spent four years at Sunderland between January 2012 and January 2016.

Arriving under Martin O’Neill and leaving under Sam Allardyce, he was at the club during a period of chopping and changing managers, with five in four years.

Fletcher admits the ultimate fall of the club was hard to watch after his departure, and believes that ironically the fear of relegation ultimately led to both tension and bad decisions that ultimately led to that very thing.

The culture of sacking managers prematurely started with Martin O’Neill and Fletcher is convinced it was the wrong decision.

He told the Open Goal podcast: “I think the problems were upstairs. I think they were that scared of getting relegated that they thought they needed change.

“He’d have kept us up. I know Di Canio came in and kept us up, but Martin would have kept us up that season.

“He’s got something about him [O’Neill]; he’s infectious. He knew how to make someone feel a million dollars. You felt unbelievable.

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“They were just that scared about being relegated from the Premier League they panicked.

“When I first signed for the club the aspirations were to make the club a top half Premier League club. They’d done that the year before.

“I was thinking brilliant. It was going to be the first time I was at a club in the Premier League doing more than fighting relegation.

“It just never ever happened like that.

“By the time I got to my third and fourth season the goal was just, let’s try and stay up. That’s why I lost all my hair!”

The Sunderland ‘Til I Die documentary first series showed the club in the immediate aftermath of their eventual relegation from the top flight.

It ultimately showed the story of their second consecutive relegation.

He elaborated on his thoughts when discussing the documentary.

“I started watching the Netflix documentary. It was hard to watch,” he admitted. “Do you know when you’ve been somewhere so long? I was there for four years.

“It was hard to watch and I had to stop watching it.

“I loved being at that club and it’s so sad what ultimately happened. I had to stop watching it.

“The fans are brilliant. It’s a big club.

“But there was just always such a big fear of getting relegated that everyone was just always on edge.

“But it was a brilliant club.”