It's just excruciating, isn't it? The stage couldn't have been set more perfectly for a Phoenix-like rise from the Premier League dungeon. Four league games unbeaten, facing an Aston Villa side in truly awful form, on New Year's Day, at home - it was destined to go wrong, wasn't it? We've done this whole Sunderland supporting thing too long to think any different.
We brought this defeat completely on ourselves and I mean that in every sense. It wasn't just Lee Cattermole gift wrapping three points to the away side. Although let it be known that was an abomination of a performance from the stand in captain - one or two too many for New Year's, methinks. Cattermole 'did an Osman' in failing to control the simplest of passes, allowing Gabby Agbonlahor to score his customary winner.
So to the other guilty gift wrappers. I'm ousting most other players in red and white, bar the two centre backs and one or two others, as contributors to this ridiculous wrapping metaphor I can't bring myself to escape from. Valentin Roberge and, particularly, Modibo Diakite deserve high plaudits for their performances today. Whilst players around them were intent on dispersing in various directions leaving them as exposed as possible to numerous swift counter attacks - they stood firm and repelled everything. Pleasing, given their poor performances against Cardiff.
It was one of those frustrating afternoons we've grown all too accustomed to at the Stadium of Light. We had plenty of the ball, created some good opportunities, but overall lacked the cutting edge or quality to score. The number of efforts from outside the box reminded me of the Fulham defeat, still nobody seems capable of that kind of goal. Perhaps it was frustration, desperation or a combination of both. I've never been one to lambast a player for shooting from distance, the opposite even, but there was no composure behind the efforts. More patience, craft and guile would have broken down this ordinary Villa team. Which we did, once, however Emanuele Giaccherini saw his goal controversially chalked off for offside.
I for one cannot wait to see Marcus Alonso take to the field, hoping he can be the answer at left back. Phil Bardsley playing there disturbs the team's balance and is too easy to defend against. It also means we can drop Ondrej Celustka, petrified of making a decision with the ball, without having to resort to the hapless Andrea Dossena. Our shortfalls at fullback were very evident at both ends of the pitch today.
Are we going down? Well, we're making life as difficult as possible for ourselves if we are not. If we're bottom at the end of January, I may be taking the towel out of the drier.
What They Said:
“It was not a good day for me and I need to be very, very careful what I say because it could bring consequences,” he said.
“Because of that, I’m going to say little or nothing – I’m sorry about that but it’s for the best. I’m prepared to be very short with my interview today
“I’m disappointed with the game and the result – I didn’t expect it.”
"We now have everybody fit and we are a really good side when that happens," he said. "We needed our big players back from injury.
"It could have been more than a 1-0 win, we had good chances so it could've been three or four. This is a hard place to come but I'm delighted with the result."