If Roy Keane thought turning Sunderland’s fortunes around was going to be an easy one in the 2006-07 season, another convincing defeat away to Preston North End in mid-October kept the club's feet firmly on the ground.
Upon the Irishman’s arrival, the team's form improved steadfastly with three wins on the bounce.
After this, form wobbled slightly with a 3-1 defeat to Ipswich along with this defeat putting a handbrake on the magic carpet ride.
The latest defeat at Deepdale was a bitterly disappointing one given the nature of the goals conceded and also the fact that we easily could have taken the lead before their rout commenced.
Former Sunderland striker Danny Dichio scored for Preston moments after he blocked a goalbound Daryl Murphy effort before he nodded in a Graham Alexander cross to put Preston ahead.
Alexander scored from the spot after Nyron Nosworthy fouled Simon Whaley, and then Dean Whitehead put through his own net following a David Nugent centre.
In many ways, all of the goals conceded were avoidable, with Keane’s chopping and changing over the past few games not having the desired results. The team looked disorganised and the Irishman labelled us ‘easy to play against’.
The second goal was vital and it was a crazy spell from us.
They might say they took their foot off the gas at 4-0 and we created one or two chances, but the 4-1 scoreline is still maybe a little harsh on us.
I was disappointed with the goals but they were honest mistakes and I can’t fault the players for effort. At the moment, we’re easy to score against.
Days later, the manager wasn’t as respectful or sympathetic.
In the lead-up to our next fixture against Stoke City, the former Manchester United captain admitted that he was prepared to wield the axe insisting that some players were simply not up for the challenge.
I’ve given players a chance by chopping and changing the side but the party is over now for some of them.
You see performances and some of it is confirming what I thought about certain players. The things that come to the forefront often confirm my initial reaction seven weeks ago.
It has just confirmed in my mind who I want to take with me and who I don’t. That will be seen in my next few teams and there may be one or two players going out [on loan] again.
In many ways, this defeat was a watershed moment for the team going forward.
Keane loaned Rory Delap and Jon Stead to Stoke and Derby respectively and winger Andy Welsh was poised to join Leicester on loan until the end of the year at this time.
The manager got a firmer grip of his squad and players he wanted to keep going forward.
From this point on, the team only lost by a margin of two goals or more on more occasions with the team especially turning a corner from Christmas onwards.
Preston: Nash, Alexander, St. Ledger, Chilvers, Hill, Sedgwick, McKenna, Pugh (Davidson 79), Whaley (Neal 74), Nugent (Ormerod 70), Dichio.
Subs Not Used: Lonergan, Wilson.
Goals: Dichio 18, Alexander 31 pen, Whitehead 35 og, Whaley 55.
Sunderland: Alnwick, Nosworthy, Varga, Danny Collins, Clarke, Lawrence, Whitehead, Leadbitter, Hysen (Wallace 52), Murphy (Yorke 62), Connolly.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Brown, Neill Collins.
Booked: Nosworthy, Varga, Wallace.
Goals: Varga 56.
Ref: M Jones (Cheshire).