Gary Rowell: It was alarming how quickly Sunderland lost shape and discipline

Sunderland's heads went down quickly at Leicester
Sunderland's heads went down quickly at Leicester
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If Saturday’s performance at Leicester is anything to go by, it’s going to be another long, hard season for Sunderland fans.

Conceding three goals inside the first 25 minutes brought a swift end to the early season optimism, with all the old failings on show.

Sunderland still can’t cope with pace and that along with Leicester’s intelligent movement, caused huge problems to our back four.

It was also alarming how heads seemed to drop after conceding the first goal, which in turn led to them losing all shape and discipline.

If Dick Advocaat is to stick with Sebastian Coates and Younes Kaboul as his centre-back pairing, then they need to find an understanding quickly, as they didn’t look on the same wavelength for much of the time.

We were off the pace in midfield as well, where we were always second best, with Leicester much sharper and always first to the ball.

On the plus side, Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher did what all strikers like to do as early as possible, by getting off the mark for the new campaign, and if you told me before the game that both of our main frontmen would find the net, I would have expected a much better outcome.

However, you can’t put a positive spin on Saturday’s performance, which was a massive let-down to the fans and reinforced the fact that there isn’t enough quality in the team.

Once again, Sunderland make a bad start to the season and you have to go back to 2009 to find the last time we won on the opening day.

What that means is that Sunderland never get any early season momentum going and are usually playing catch-up at the wrong end of the table.

Advocaat has to get the formula right quickly, if it’s not to be yet another season battling the drop.

Sunderland’s first home game of the season on Saturday sees one of last year’s promoted teams, Norwich City, travelling to Wearside.

Norwich went up via the play-offs with a Wembley win over Middlesbrough, and that’s always a memorable way to gain promotion, as it’s such a great day out for the fans.

Hanging on to that feel-good factor for as long as possible will be a crucial part of Norwich’s season and with that in mind, established clubs in the Premier League usually wanted to avoid the promoted ones early on in the campaign.

However, that applies more when you visit their ground, so with Sunderland having home advantage, they should have no other mindset than targeting all three points.

Anything less than a win against a team who will be more than happy to be fourth bottom come May will be viewed as points dropped, so Sunderland have to be far more ruthless with these sort of opportunities than in the past, where so often they’ve been squandered.