MARTIN O’Neill saw Saturday’s shock 4-0 defeat to West Brom as a reality check – a reminder to players getting used to success that they only get out of a game what they put in.
West Brom did to Sunderland what Sunderland have done to so many teams since O’Neill arrived – simply ran their opponents into the ground with sheer desire, effort and no little skill.
And O’Neill gave short shrift to the idea that there could be no explanation why the same starting 11 which steamrollered Arsenal into submission the previous week, should succumb so easily to an Albion side which went into the game at the Hawthorns cursed with terrible home form.
“It’s not inexplicable,” he sniffed. “The reality is that at this minute in time, we are not good enough to go 10-15 minutes in a game and play second fiddle to teams.
“We’re not. We had to work extremely hard to get a win over Arsenal the previous week. We put a lot of effort into it, which was great.
“But we didn’t seem to have that energy against Albion and there was no excuse on the day. We were well-beaten.”
O’Neill could tell there were problems right from the start but was disappointed that his team didn’t hit their stride at some stage as the game progressed.
“The early goal obviously knocked us back a bit but it shouldn’t have,” he said. “It’s just a goal and it was scored early – it shouldn’t have been a decisive moment.
“But we were second best, first-half in particular and were not only well-beaten but deserved to be. Sometimes, even in the second-half when we changed things and tried to create chances, deep down I’m not sure we really deserved it.
“If we’d got a goal back, 3-1 it might have made it interesting, but West Brom were just better than us and it’s a tough one to take because it is unlike us - unlike us not to compete, not to have a real appetite for it.
“In the first half, we were really, really flat and that’s hard to understand because that hasn’t been usual. I don’t mind losing by two or three goals if we are chasing the game but we didn’t pass or control the ball well enough and that was disappointing.”