Summer optimism is slowly evaporating amongst some sections of the Sunderland faithful as football-proper returns following the end of England's World Cup dream. And Lee Cattermole is in danger of becoming the latest hate figure at the Stadium of Light, replacing Jack Rodwell as this season's pantomime villain.
Those are but two conclusions drawn from today's outing to Hartlepool.
A laboured draw against Non-League opposition during the early stages of pre-season would ordinarily not raise much concern. But Sunderland fans are a weary bunch and have seen this all before.
With the Black Cats displaying their usual lack of panache in the summer transfer market, the huge gaps in the red-and-white squad which took to the pitch at Victoria Park are alarmingly clear for all to see.
Another fortnight until those gaps are sorted
In the aftermath of this afternoon's 1-1 draw, Jack Ross suggested he hopes to have the bulk of his squad signed and through the door within the next 10 days. By then, Sunderland will have all but finished their pre-season fixtures with a trip to Grimsby and St Mirren all to come in the next week.
The first two games of the summer against Darlo and 'Pools have reaffirmed just how much work the Black Cats transfer team still have to do, and without some quality additions up front, in defence and in midfield, Sunderland are going to struggle to make much early headway in League One.
Surely Cattermole has got the message
Lee Cattermole's stock is at an all-time low on Wearside. After last season in which first Simon Grayson and then Chris Coleman were forced to repeatedly reassure supporters that the 30-year-old wasn't the issue inside the dressing room, Sunderland could do without another campaign with the former talisman lingering around the first team.
Jeered off when he was finally removed from the field of play this afternoon, some amongst the Sunderland support swore they heard him mutter something about sharing their hope that's he about to leave the Stadium of Light.
The feeling is mutual of course, and Cattermole's decision to hook up with the derided figure of Margaret Byrne has hardly helped his cause. The former Sunderland CEO-turned-agent has already been the subject of some vicious online stick this summer as suggestions emerged that Byrne has been agitating for her two red-and-white clients - Cattermole and George Honeyman.
Cattermole was abysmal this afternoon. Barely in the game, his days of stamping a mark in midfield look long gone.
A need to reawaken the seeds of optimism
It is a by-product of recent seasons that any hint of optimism among the Sunderland fanbase can and will evaporate at a moment's notice. All are willing to accept that Stewart Donald's rebuilding project will take time, but these early showings in pre-season are shaking that belief in the new men a little.
Much like the yellowed scorched lawns of the north east, the green shoots of revolution which emerged back in May may need a little fresh encouragement.
The arrival of a striker and a couple of "marquee" signings will quickly do just that. The storm clouds are many months away from gathering once more above the Stadium of Light, but trying to maintain the wave of optimism will be increasingly tricky without firm evidence that the revolution is actually capable of improving the product on the pitch.