After our second-half horror show at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, and despite other abysmal performances that the current side have served up this season, the events in Wales have left me with a very horrible feeling deep in the pit of my stomach, one that is likely to take a heck of a long time to subside.
Yes, even for us, the manner of our implosion did indeed surprise me, and at the same time has left me feeling utterly bewildered and downtrodden.
We were second best all over the park against Neil Warnock’s men, who were themselves on a run of four successive defeats in the league. We can bleat on and on about Didier Ndong’s sending off changing the game until we’re blue in the face, but once again Sunderland went and shot themselves in the foot from yet another goalkeeping mistake.
Realistically, when you consider the way that we are playing - scoring only twice in seven games - the game was up once we fluffed our lines and allowed Boro to take the lead, and Ndong’s red card only rubber stamped an inevitable home victory.
The goals we gave away were cheap; we mustered only three attempts at goal ourselves, which compounded an extremely poor showing in the second half.
The heads of our players went down and the towel was thrown in. This squad have shown time and time again that they cannot respond to going a goal behind, something that Chris Coleman has to remedy quickly. Mental toughness will be paramount if we are to heave ourselves away from the bottom of the table.
Saturday’s home fixture against Hull City is now a massive game - one that could, perhaps, help to shape how the rest of the January transfer window plays out for us.
We got a lucky escape this past weekend, and the results of teams around us in the table this past weekend went in our favour. It is a sad indictment of our current situation when we all have to religiously check the scores of Birmingham City and Burton in order to assuage our fears of Sunderland’s current plight. Luckily for us, none of the teams around us managed to pick up maximum points, leaving us somewhat remarkably only three points away from safety.
If we’re somehow able to muster a victory at the Stadium of Light against Hull on Saturday, we’ll draw level with our opponents on 25 points. Lose, and they go six ahead of us. The consequences of another home defeat could well be disastrous. Nobody gets relegated in January, but where we would go from there I’m not wholly sure.
I’ve always cited the importance of reaching the 50 points mark; the quicker we reached that total, the less nerve-shredding it would be in our run towards the end of the season. Never in my worst nightmares did I think that with 19 games remaining we’d be bottom of the table with only four wins to our name all season.
We need around 28 points from those remaining matches, and despite the injuries we have it is becoming more and more apparent that this squad will be incapable of reaching that total.
We have now lost 106 of our last 216 league games according to Sky; a phenomenal statistic highlighting our plight in recent seasons. Ability is one thing, but mental toughness, heart and a willingness to fight are traits that are severely lacking in this group of players.
It makes the task ahead all the more difficult when your two first-choice strikers decide to jump ship at the first opportunity they get of doing so, but getting rid of them was 100% the right decision.
Didier Ndong is another that has asked to leave the club, and with one or two others seeing their futures elsewhere, Chris Coleman is a man in desperate need of help and desperate need of reinforcements this month in order for Sunderland AFC to retain their Championship status. A first campaign in the third tier since 1987/88 and only our second ever at that level would be absolutely unthinkable.
The owner, whatever his intentions are, must act. Martin Bain must act.
This month and the business the club does with regards to players is absolutely huge. It will certainly be season-defining; history defining too.
It will prove to be another critical week for this club; player recruitment and bolstering the options at Chris Coleman’s disposal must be top of our agenda. Beating Hull City on Saturday is equally important - and I’ve got no doubt that we’ll be put through the wringer once again throughout the entirety of the ninety minutes.