Chris Young: Newcastle sacking Steve McClaren could be the biggest threat to Sunderland survival
'Don't sack the wally, the wally with the brolly,' was repeatedly the chant emerging from the away end as news of Newcastle's surrender against Bournemouth filtered through.
At the moment, Newcastle’s possible dismissal of Steve McClaren could be the biggest blow towards Sunderland remaining in the Premier League.
There looks little way back for McClaren after St James’s Park turned on him so vociferously. It’s a situation that’s startlingly reminiscent of Steve Bruce’s final game in charge of Sunderland against Wigan in November 2011.
But the worry is that if McClaren goes, then the bounce effect stemming from the new manager could be sufficient for the Magpies to take that final spot in next season’s Premier League, with the drop-fight now a clear case of two from three.
Let’s face it, Newcastle don’t have to look too far back in time to see what a new boss could do for them at this stage.
If McClaren goes this week, then any successor could face a derby in his second game at the helm – the exact same situation that Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce faced when they all secured their first win in charge of their new clubs.
For Di Canio and Advocaat, those Spring-time victories over Newcastle proved to be the back-bone of successfully remaining in the Premier League.
That’s the ominous worry stemming from Sunderland’s inability to create a three-point cushion with the Magpies on what could – and should – have been a perfect Saturday afternoon for Wearside.
On current form and performance levels, Sunderland look a far better bet than either Newcastle or Norwich to beat the drop, yet what if the Magpies get a second wind from the appointment of a David Moyes or a Brendan Rodgers?
Sunderland don’t have the points on the board they should have done from last week after throwing away the advantage against both Southampton and Crystal Palace.
Allardyce’s men could have had clear daylight to make any managerial changes up the road meaningless.
If there is a new man in the dug-out at St James’s Park in a fortnight, then Newcastle’s players will surely be in a mentally better position, while their opposite numbers may still be psychologically damaged from events on the south coast.
There was no masking the utter dejection on the faces of Allardyce’s players as they emerged from the away dressing room at St Mary’s.
The sense of disappointment was perhaps even more acute than in last season’s 8-0 drubbing on the same ground.
And the longer Sunderland go on throwing away leads or failing to convert performances into points, then the more it will prey upon the minds of the players.
It’s perhaps doing so already.
Like so many games over recent weeks, there was plenty to encourage Allardyce about Sunderland’s display on the south coast, not least Vito Mannone, who made a string of superb saves and now looks to have regained the confidence which ebbed away last season.
The two centre-halves, Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone, were utterly dogged, particularly the latter who was a physical match for frontman Graziano Pelle.
Jan Kirchhoff was again dominant in winning a lot of second balls in midfield, while Yann M’Vila was back to his best after several lean games, with the Frenchman marauding around the pitch breathlessly.
Up front, Fabio Borini thoroughly justified his recall to the side, with the Italian full of energy, chasing lost causes and almost netting a second stunner in as many games when he chested the ball down and sent in a dipping volley in the same movement which clipped the roof of the net.
Borini’s wonderful first touch which sent him in behind the Saints defence and forced last defender Jose Fonte to bring him down, changed the complexion of the encounter and gave Jermain Defoe the platform to net what should have been the winner with his 11th of the season.
There was no excuse for Sunderland’s failure to get over the winning line.
If it was a one-off, then perhaps there would be some mitigation, but Sunderland are falling short time and time again in games where they should emerge victorious and it’s simply piling further pressure on their already war-weary shoulders.
Concentration, mental resilience, composure and a splash of fortune all disappear in those crucial periods of game-management.
Allardyce isn’t immune from it either after his decision to introduce John O’Shea into the defence at the expense of exhausted midfielder Kirchhoff backfired late on.
The change only served to invited pressure from the 10-man Saints by sitting so deep.
Ronald Koeman’s side were allowed to deliver a cross from the left-hand by-line – which had been their biggest danger area throughout – and O’Shea gave ex-Sunderland transfer target Virgil van Dijk far too much room to plant a shot inside the near post.
It was utterly wasteful and, in the final reckoning, one point might just not be good enough.
If Sunderland are relegated this season, then a failure to emerge with maximum points at Southampton might well be the result which sends them into the Championship.