Steve Bruce has denied rumours of a bust-up with Kieran Richardson, but admits he has fallen out with some of his players during Sunderland's current slump.
From being talked of as potential European challengers earlier in the season, Sunderland are now in a battle to stay in the Premier League after a run of 10 games without a win.
The dip in form has seen the Black Cats fall to within just three points of the bottom three and led to rumours of unrest on Wearside.
Reports have claimed that Sunderland boss Bruce had a row with midfielder Richardson after the 2-0 defeat at Everton late last month.
However, while Bruce acknowledged there have been stern words with his squad in recent weeks, he insists there has been no issue with former Manchester United youngster Richardson.
"I had a bust-up with a few of them, but Kieran wasn't involved," said Bruce in The Sun.
"There were a few I had a fall-out with and rightly so.
"You have to be a big player to play here and handle the expectation.
"It's gone pear-shaped. We've been all over the place and not to win in 10 is an horrific run."