DURING the shameless round of pre-season broadcasting plugs, Chris Waddle produced an alarming prophecy.
The former Sunderland and England winger told the Echo before a ball had been kicked that he feared for the Black Cats’ prospects, without the necessary striking options to score sufficient goals.
At the time, it seemed unduly pessimistic from Waddle, given Sunderland had landed one of the highest-rated forward prospects in the country, Asamoah Gyan was more attuned to the Premier League, Stephane Sessegnon had shone in pre-season and there were still several weeks of the transfer window remaining.
Yet it was one of those rare pieces of punditry that was tellingly on the mark and that is why the vocal minority against Steve Bruce became the vocal majority within the space of an hour on Saturday.
It was perhaps an impossible task for Bruce to replace either Darren Bent or Danny Welbeck.
But Sunderland simply don’t have a penalty box predator in their midst and that deficiency has reared its head throughout this increasingly sorry campaign – from the derby, to Old Trafford and the Emirates.
The goal tally may well match the one at the same stage of last season and there is no longer a reliance on one man to find the target.
Yet the ball has seldom rippled the net at the pivotal moments of games this season and that is what ultimately decides who prevails and who toils in the Premier League.
Connor Wickham’s injury doesn’t help, nor does Gyan’s departure when the August transfer window had already closed.
But it is a damning indictment of Sunderland’s recruitment post-Bent that Nicklas Bendtner was partnered in a “must win” game with a player who was deployed at left-back just three weeks earlier.
READ the full verdict in Monday’s Echo