In the bowels of Fulham’s Craven Cottage, in a hospitality-turned post-match press conference room, Chris Coleman addressed the media.
Sunderland had just suffered their 23rd defeat. The old adage of the ‘league table doesn’t lie’ is true.
Sunderland, the worst team in the league, are League One-bound and deservedly so. Shipping goals for fun - 80 this season - not scoring enough, no identity or consistency in team selection.
Persistent injury problems and poor form has led to Coleman and predecessor Simon Grayson having to constantly chop and change.
Can anyone actually pick Sunderland’s best team this season?
Coleman was exasperated as he spoke, not because he was disappointed with his players - far from it - he was actually pleased with their performance.
No, he was fuming with the officials. Rightly so, Sunderland should have been awarded a penalty and Aleksandar Mitrovic’s winning header shouldn’t have counted.
Coleman was keen to stress the point that while Sunderland have been on the receiving end of some ‘astonishing’ decisions by officials this season, the reason they have been relegated again is simply because they haven’t been good enough.
Coleman too will admit he hasn’t pulled up any trees and despite the ongoing uncertainty above him and the dire financial picture that restricted him to a freebie and four loan signings in January, Coleman had backed himself to keep Sunderland up.
He failed on that front. The players have failed. Martin Bain has made mistakes, Ellis Short countless mistakes. A catalogue of failings over recent seasons that has led to this point.
Long-suffering fans, who again backed their team in numbers at a rain-lashed Craven Cottage, will hope this is the club bottoming out.
Speculation will continue but Coleman remains adamant he wants to stay and lead Sunderland back to the Championship but he needs clarity regards the plan moving forward.
Under contract for a further two years, Coleman ‘gets’ Sunderland and connects with the fanbase. They know he is not responsible for this relegation.
The problems stem much deeper than him and the Welshman offers Sunderland the best opportunity to bounce back first time and regain some positive momentum.
But he needs help. And he needs an owner with a vision and one willing to invest in the team. As Bain highlighted, up to 14 new players are needed. A complete overhaul.
Yet Coleman is still to hear from Short. Utterly remarkable.
Short wants out. Fans want him gone. Sunderland is crying out for fresh ownership but the right owners, ones willing and committed to turning the club around.
Once Coleman had finished venting at referee Peter Bankes and his team of officials, he again stressed the need for clarity.
Sunderland have known their fate for a week, they should be planning their League One assault.
But while there is so much uncertainty, Coleman and Bain, who have been targeting free agents, have their hands tied to a degree.
For Coleman, what’s key is to have a “plan, a vision, creating an identity and an environment where it is vibrant, full of players who want to work hard and fight for each other over 46 games, then we have a chance to do something.”
He is adamant he is the right man for the job: “I know I can create that platform, I have created it before but I need some tools and some help, we all do.
“We can’t do anything until we know what is happening above us.”
Sunderland cannot afford another summer like last year, takeover talk paralysing the club.
It cost them their Championship status. A similar summer of uncertainty ahead of the League One campaign doesn’t bear thinking about.