A HUNDRED or so in the away end could not bear to watch the second half at the KC Stadium last week and opted for the warmth of the public house at the interval.
It was an understandable decision.
Sunderland had thrown in the towel when faced with adversity in their previous away outing at Swansea and there was the prospect of another second-half collapse against Hull after the double sending- off of Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena.
But this time, there was no tame surrender. Sunderland rallied with nine men and could even have nicked a point.
While the game ultimately ended in a seventh defeat in eight Premier League outings, goalkeeper Vito Mannone believes it may prove to be a “turning point” for this Sunderland side; the moment when character and resolve reappeared in the Black Cats’ line-up.
Certainly, there was evidence of a change in fortunes for second-bottom Sunderland when they progressed into the Capital One Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday night.
And £2million summer signing Mannone hopes his prediction continues to ring true when title-challengers Manchester City visit the Stadium of Light for Sunday’s Sky-televised showdown.
“Sometimes things happen that can change a season,” said Mannone, who replaced the injured Keiren Westwood during the first half at Hull.
“I think playing nine against 11, and doing well like we did in the second half, can be a big turning point, even though we lost.
“I don’t know why. Don’t ask me.
“But I’ve got a feeling inside of me that we can change this season and build something from there.
“Even though we lost, in a difficult situation that we put ourselves in, we reacted really well and you could tell the team defended for one another.
“From there, it was a good base.
“On Wednesday, you could see we played a little bit more and tried to play football.
“We need to stick together against Man City, play our style of game and keep believing.
“We’re only at the beginning of the season. We’re creating a team here and trying to gel and finding our identity.”
There was also evidence of a change in style against Southampton, as Sunderland practised the possession-based philosophy which brought Poyet success at former club Brighton.
Mannone, hoping to keep his place ahead of the fit-again Westwood on Sunday, believes Sunderland’s new system will become more fluid, as Poyet gets time to put his ideas across.
“Since the manager came in, we’ve tried a different style, but it takes time to find the right balance, the right players and who wants to play football,” added the Italian.
“Obviously training helps a lot so the more time we have with him, the better.
“If we trust his style and what he wants us to do, I think we’ll play better and better.”