JUST AS a reminder, It was only THREE weeks ago when there was such pride, such hope and such faith in this Sunderland side.
Yes, they had lost the Capital One Cup final, but Sunderland looked to be healthily equipped to thrive in both the FA Cup and the Premier League survival battle.
What a turnaround.
Knocked out of the FA Cup at a whimper after half-a-dozen changes and their charge to remain in the top flight more of an asthmatic crawl on all fours.
On the positive side - and you had to look desperately hard for them after such a huge kick in the unmentionables at Carrow Road - their plight in the table has not significantly worsened, even if Norwich have now been able to pull away from danger.
With three of the last four games against Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea at the Stadium of Light, there is likely to still be a chance to beat the drop heading into the season’s final fortnight.
But Sunderland don’t seem capable of getting three points against their fellow strugglers.
A tally of just one from back-to-back games against Crystal Palace and Norwich - which had rightly been identified as pivotal encounters - could prove to be fatal.
What’s worse, the manner of Sunderland’s defeat against the Canaries provided little hint that there is the capability to avoid relegation.
The first half was about as sorry as Sunderland have produced under Gus Poyet.
There was no hunger, no urgency, no battle and crucially, no apparent idea of what they were doing.
Sunderland continually gifted possession away, were beaten to the 50-50s and lacked any hint of a goal threat.
With Jozy Altidore yet again failing to offer an attacking platform up top, any of the anxiety which Norwich may have felt was rendered redundant as they were able to monopolise possession.
On top of that, Sunderland managed to produce another masterclass in kamikaze self-destruction, as Wes Brown’s awful clearance gifted Norwich the opener.
The second from Alex Tettey was a worldie. Fair play.
But Sunderland’s continued indifference forced Poyet to make a double substitution five minutes before the break. That told it’s own story.
It at least produced an improvement.
The introduction of Lee Cattermole, used alongside Liam Bridcutt for the first time, added some leadership and direction to the rudderless ship, while a shift to 4-4-2 saw Sunderland learn the skill of passing a ball more than twice in succession.
But other than Wes Brown’s header from a short corner, Sunderland didn’t show any goal threat and that was the most worrying aspect.
The chances of improving on a return of just three in seven won’t get any better at Liverpool on Wednesday either, with Fabio Borini ineligible to face his parent club.
With Marcos Alonso absent too after his needless late double booking, the first of Sunderland’s game in hands looks to be more of a curse than a blessing.
These last two games were where Sunderland needed to get their points.
While the stalemate against Palace could have been forgiven if Sunderland had registered three points at Norwich, the trip to Carrow Road was an unmitigated disaster.
The Wembley feelgood factor has gone and replaced by fresh, much darker storm clouds.
It’s going to take a remarkable effort from Sunderland now to banish them.
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