SUNDERLAND are exploring contingency plans after being taken aback by the speed at which things have reached meltdown at the Stadium of Light.
And the club is now involved in a series of top-level talks aimed at finding the best way forward.
Belief inside the club was so strong that the current set of four fixtures against fellow strugglers Fulham, Wigan, Wolves and Blackburn would see Sunderland rise up strongly into the mid-table pack, that the club was not preparing a review of its progress until the middle of next month.
Defeat to Wigan seemed so unlikely that thoughts were already focused on the fixtures ahead.
And the bizarre loss to the Premier League club’s basement side at the weekend coupled, more importantly with the venom directed at the manager, has taken everyone by surprise.
Suddenly, Bruce’s position as manager has gone from simply uncomfortable to almost untenable, and owner Ellis Short and his board are still considering the repercussions of Saturday’s defeat.
Possible replacements would include Martin O’Neill, who would be a popular choice for most fans.
But one of Short’s best friends in football is Aston Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner, who is unlikely to give a glittering reference for his former manager at Villa Park.
Another issue is the suggestion that O’Neill’s wife is currently ill – an issue which was a factor when O’Neill originally snubbed the chance to take over when Niall Quinn’s Drumaville Consortium took charge in 2006.
Other options have been thrown into the hat, with the likes of Mark Hughes heading a list of candidates including Alan Curbishley, Steve McClaren and Dave Jones.
There’s also the issue of money – the likes of O’Neill and Hughes would want big money to spend to turn things around but that appears to be simply not an option at the club at the moment as Bruce himself found as he chased the signature of Charles N’Zogbia in the summer.
There is a belief though – that deserves taking seriously – that Sunderland know exactly who they want to replace Bruce.
What should not be forgotten at this time of intense speculation is that Steve Bruce is still the manager of Sunderland Football Club.
The fact is that despite all the talk of Bruce having to go and expected to go soon, he remains very much in charge of the team.
He took training as normal yesterday, has no intention of walking away from the challenge and is currently preparing the side for Sunday’s game against Wolves.
With every passing hour he remains in the job it is likely he will still be in charge when the Black Cats take on the Wolves at Molineux.
And if he is in the dugout for the Sky-televised game, he will still believe that with a win at the weekend and a victory over Blackburn in the next game, he could keep his job and put Sunderland back on course.