DANNY ROSE sat decked in a Sunderland tracksuit alongside his family in the Stadium of Light stands, unable to influence proceedings between his temporary and permanent employers.
A breather will have benefited Rose, who has spent the last three weeks struggling with an ankle injury that saw him miss the defeat at Manchester United and then play with heavy strapping against Southampton and Manchester City.
And the biggest plus point to emerge from the entire weekend was Andre Villas-Boas’s confirmation that Rose will remain on Wearside for the rest of the campaign, even if it looks unlikely that his stay will last longer.
But Sunderland undoubtedly missed the significant contribution of the on-loan Spurs man on Saturday, in a galling afternoon for both Black Cats full-backs.
Facing Spurs is the ultimate test for those occupying the right and left-back slots.
Aaron Lennon’s crossing ability remains questionable, while a mild breeze appears sufficient to send Gareth Bale sprawling to the turf.
But the pair have unrivalled pace and both Craig Gardner and Matt Kilgallon struggled to contain that sheer speed over the turf.
It was a particularly tough ask for Kilgallon.
Had Phil Bardsley not succumbed to the lurgy, then the former Manchester United man would surely have provided a more familiar replacement for the ineligible Rose.
Martin O’Neill could also have shifted Jack Colback to left-back, as he did for the final half-hour when Kilgallon was clearly struggling, albeit Sunderland had to chance their arm for a leveller during that period.
But moving Colback would have left Sunderland almost bereft of central midfield options, although, with O’Neill clearly wary about using David Vaughan, the decision to not recall David Meyler from Hull baffled.
Given the way Colback persisted in hassling and harrying under-rated Spurs midfielder Sandro too, after doing the same to Yaya Toure three days earlier, Sunderland needed the Tynesider in the middle of the park.
Kilgallon endured a handful of games at left-back when he first arrived at the Stadium of Light, but he has never professed to be comfortable there.
Like Carlos Cuellar and John O’Shea, Kilgallon is a centre-half who will willingly play at full-back, but his strengths lie in the centre.
The former Leeds man duly looked ill at ease.
Although Kilgallon coped comfortably with anything knocked skywards – and there was plenty of that in a scrappy opening 15 minutes – it was in the foot race that the 28-year-old was given first-half warning signs of what was to come from Lennon.
First, a clever pass inside Kilgallon saw Lennon burst onto the ball, only to be let down by a poor pull-back from the by-line.
And then, 10 minutes later, the England winger surged past Kilgallon before his cross was cut out at the near post by Cuellar’s smart block.
The respite was only temporary though.
Kilgallon was out of position three minutes after Cuellar’s own goal handed Spurs a reprieve early in the second half and, although it was a fortuitous ricochet off the makeshift left-back, Lennon punished him by pouncing on the loose ball with a neat finish.
Not that Kilgallon should be castigated as the scapegoat for defeat in a spirited showing from Sunderland against an impressive Spurs side.
Gardner had an equally tough afternoon containing Bale.
It was Gardner’s 15th start of the season at right-back and although he remains largely a novice in the position, he has been one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers – so much so that it has justifiably prompted debate over whether he should ultimately return to midfield.
But facing Bale is a task like no other in the Premier League.
Just four minutes in, Bale span away from Gardner effortlessly on the left-hand touchline when the Sunderland man got too tight with his attentions.
Bale continued to consume Gardner’s concentration as he looked to burst inside in search of a return ball from explosive one-twos.
And when the Welshman was able to build up a head of steam and run at Gardner with pace, he proved devastating.
When Seb Larsson committed himself too easily midway inside the Sunderland half, Bale collected and produced a stunning carry forwards before squaring to Jermain Defoe, who drew one of two jaw-dropping saves in the game from Simon Mignolet – both of which maintained the hosts’ hopes of a point.
Bale should have produced something similar with 10 minutes to go, only to be let down by his own misguided sense of foul play.
The former Southampton man claimed afterwards that he was innocent of the simulation judgment from referee Martin Atkinson after he theatrically plunged to the turf as he surged beyond Gardner down the left-hand side of the box.
Bale said: “People keep saying I’m diving, but if there’s contact, it’s not diving.”
Yes, there was contact Gareth, but did it actually amount to a foul?
If there was a free-kick given every time there was contact between players, the referee’s whistling would be Rio Carnival-esque.
His decision to go so meekly to ground simply marred another stellar display from Bale.
Gardner has plenty of mitigation. He is still learning to thrive in the position and won’t face an opponent of Bale’s calibre every week, if at all.
But Sunderland’s troubles at full-back show it is yet another of those areas which requires attention either in January or in the summer transfer window.
Gardner has more than proved his credentials at right-back, but Bardsley is the only permanent full-back in the first-team picture at the Stadium of Light.
While Villas-Boas’s decision to let Rose remain on Wearside provides comfort, Saturday reinforced the task in front of O’Neill to make the England Under-21 man’s “impossible” permanent signing, possible.