STEVE Bruce insists his players appreciate the gravity of the situation facing Sunderland in the wake of the club’s seventh defeat in eight games.
Saturday’s defeat to West Brom was the result which finally dropped the Black Cats into the relegation picture after weeks on the fringes of the dogfight.
And with a listlessness and lack of conviction obvious in Sunderland’s displays, there are fans who fear that the players themselves don’t share the sense of urgency and emergency felt in the stands.
Bruce, though, places blame for the poor performances on the club’s injury problems rather than any lack of team spirit or commitment to the cause.
“The mood in the dressing room after the game tells me the players fully understand the situation they are in,” said Bruce.
“It’s more a case of being out of form and not being able to get a break in terms of the knocks we keep picking up.
“John Mensah groin; Anton Ferdinand, hamstring; Kieran Richardson, calf strain – we are being hampered by injuries.
“Players either being out or making their way back has been the biggest factor in not getting the results.
“And when the results aren’t going your way, confidence starts to dwindle and the games become harder and harder.
“It has been a miserable few weeks and we must be in the worst run of form of anyone in the division right now.”
Bruce’s hopes of victory dwindled as Saturday’s match wore on, despite his side having the advantage of being in front of a big home crowd and twice taking the lead.
“We called for a response after the Man City defeat and the first-half response was fantastic,” he added.
“We were anxious and nervy at times – that happens when you haven’t won a game for some time – but, in the second half, we just didn’t look happy.
“We didn’t look as though we believed and we fell away badly.”