The reaction to David Moyes’ ‘Britishness’ comments demonstrate what seems like a hardening of doubts from many about his suitability for the job long-term.
That one comment has snowballed and been picked up all over the footballing world, which is harsh given it was a remark made in the immediate aftermath of a result that in all likelihood demonstrated why Sunderland will be relegated this season.
From the outside, it is because Moyes has become an easy target for mocking ever since his time at Manchester United.
For Sunderland fans, however, the criticism is more constructive and it has crystallised more concrete and altogether more well-founded doubts.
The question slowly is shifting from, is Moyes the right man for now, which is quickly becoming irrelevant, to whether he is the right man to rebuild.
Those comments reflected a wider held concern that there has been little to suggest that a drop to the Championship will initiate a better brand of football at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland were again painfully one-paced and pedestrian against Burnley, something that was compounded by Moyes’ selection and probably his January signings.
So why, it is asked, will next season be any different?
It is an impossible question to answer, given the utter uncertainty that ultimately defines Sunderland at the moment. Should the club be sold after relegation like Aston Villa last summer, it will in all likelihood become a moot point.
There are reasons to suggest David Moyes is worthy of patience, over and above simply saying he must stay because Sunderland always sack managers. That is an inadequate explanation, even if there is no point denying the prohibitive financial implications of making a change.
First and foremost is that he has, admittedly mainly because of injuries, gradually brought young players into the fold, a core that he could build on in the Championship.
Duncan Watmore, Lynden Gooch and Paddy McNair will not become matchwinners overnight in the second tier but they could start the process of building a team with a more dynamic profile.
Moyes speaks with real enthusiasm and drive about bringing these players on and it is tempting to think that being able to work on them away from the Premier League gaze could be a change of pace he needs.
Secondly, there has to be hope that recruitment will be better and different in the summer. It is easy to say that, harder to prove.
Yet it is worth remembering that those January signings were made because Sunderland were wrong-footed by their main target’s complete reluctance to come to Wearside.
Would Sunderland be better with Robbie Brady and Vicente Iborra? Unquestionably. The latter is the midfielder with ‘Britishness’ Moyes so craves. Sunderland have been scouting extensively this year, with a mind to all possible eventualities, and Moyes himself has taken in a number of games to watch young players.
Could he find more, has he found more, in the ilk of Phil Jagielka, Seamus Coleman? That is one of the reasons within the club he is likely seen as the man for the job come what may.
There are no guarantees that another manager would do better.
Gary Rowett was the name oft mentioned this season, but it is worth remembering that for all his enthusiasm, tactical awareness and impressive battle against the odds at Birmingham, he signed poorly and brought in players who only compounded his side’s lack of invention.
Yes, perhaps someone could come from afar and shake things up like Marco Silva at Hull. What about Walter Zenga at Wolves, however, or indeed Zola at Birmingham? These managers often come in touted by agents and is a supremely high risk strategy.
Sunderland are in some ways caught in a bind. The priority for financial reasons has to be staying in the Premier League, and it is not over yet.
It takes a stretch of the imagination to see it, but if Sunderland beat Swansea and win their game in hand, the gap is one point.
The Black Cats cannot afford to start talking about next season while there is much football to be played, even if behind the scenes plans are surely being drawn up for the drop.
It is always easy to talk about tomorrow.
That is why many of these observations will be met with raised eyebrows. The truth is much of what has been talked about has not matched the reality this season.
Injuries and bad luck have played a big part, but there is no point denying that the team that finished last season so encouragingly has been dismantled and in place is something that has been difficult to stomach.
Has Moyes done enough to prove to supporters that next season will be any different. Regardless of the division?
Perhaps not. He is certainly not going to transform into a manager with a completely different philosophy overnight.
Sunderland’s fanbase is seemingly caught between two reasonable positions. The first that a need for stability and past record must count for something this time around, the second that one of the poorest seasons in memory is justification for a free hand going into the next.
The reality is that he is here to stay, and it is imperative that fans are given an insight into what comes next as soon as Sunderland’s position is clear.