Niall Quinn says Darron Gibson was 'silly' for implying that some of his team-mates did not want to play for the club, but defended the midfielder and said his comments were not 'new news.'
The Sunderland legend also praised Sunderland's opening day performance against Derby County, saying that Simon Grayson had instilled a 'tenacity' in the team.
Quinn, who recently stepped down from his punditry role at Sky Sports, was speaking to The Irish Independent.
He said: "He's been a silly lad to do what he did,
"He can feel what he feels, but there's a time and a place to do that. If you wanted to go public on it you do it after training, not in a pub after you've been hammered 5-0.
"There's very little sympathy out there for him and it's a shame because I like Darron. I've very fond memories of Darron because when I was chairman of Sunderland, Man United needed to beat Hull on the last day for us to stay up, and Darron Gibson put one in from about 35 yards, so Sunderland fans should remember that every time they're going to give him stick.
"This is another setback but I think the quicker he gets on the pitch and gets a goal, or does something that sort of re-evaluates his whole Sunderland being, that will be great for him.
"But going back to the thing about the passion, he called out the passion of some of the players, I think that's shocking in some ways but not a surprise as a stock answer to give when you're out for a drink and you're just saying what everyone else has been saying anyway," he added.
"The Sunderland fans aren't fools but they're not getting new news there from Darron. It's just shocking the way it is because of the fact he's in the dressing room.
"But [the fans] they can see for themselves what's missing and you look at players, who at times, when Sam Allardyce was there, these players look a million dollars, but then you see them under David Moyes not have the same commitment, the same passion, but they've got to forget about all that now and just build on what happened the other night."
Despite the difficult build-up to the opening game, including a 5-0 defeat to Celtic as well as Gibson's comments, Sunderland were well worthy of their 1-1 draw with much-fancied Derby County.
Quinn was heartened by the display and said it showed signs of Simon Grayson building a side the support would want to get behind.
He said: "I enjoyed that they had a go, because you couldn't say that all the time last year. They looked a bit frightened last year, as if they knew their fate before they had even stepped over the line.
"Too often they dipped into this area where they lacked belief but one thing I saw with Simon Grayson's charges the other night was that there was a tenacity about them, they got after the ball, they attacked, they wanted it.
"I'm blue in the face from saying it, but Sunderland fans want to see heart. They want to see passion. They want to see people work and show pride in the jersey to earn plaudits from the fans, and if that happens, it's a great place to be."