Sunderland captain George Honeyman opens up on Wembley heartbreak and 'embarrassing' feeling after Charlton defeat
Sunderland captain George Honeyman felt embarrassed watching the Charlton players celebrate at the full-time whistle, following his side's 2-1 defeat in the League One play-off final.
Patrick Bauer's stoppage-time winner denied the Wearsiders promotion back to the Championship, following consecutive relegations to the third tier.
And Honeyman, a local lad and proud captain of Sunderland, cut a devastated figure while conducting his post-match media duties at Wembley Stadium.
“I think this probably feels worse at the moment because it was within our grasp," said Honeyman when asked how he felt compared to previous setbacks.
"Relegation last year was a long horrible battle. this one was last minute, really tough to take. There’s not much to be said after a last-minute defeat in a play-off final.
“It’s a bit early, we have to go away rest, take our minds off it and come back fresh for pre-season and give it a good go again. In terms of what we need to improve to get better it’s a bit early for that. We need to recharge because it’s been a long old season."
Sunderland players stayed on the pitch after the game to applaud their travelling fans, who have now seen their side lose seven successive games at the national stadium, following March's Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Portsmouth.
The last-gasp sucker punch visibly stung the Sunderland players, and Honeyman wants to use the disappointment as motivation for next season.
“Promotion has to be the aim. We don’t want another eight months to get here again, we need to dust ourselves down and go again," added Honeyman.
“I’m not embarrassed by our team’s efforts, how we handled it, I am very proud of that. I was just desperate to be that team celebrating, it’s too late now.
“It’s embarrassing going around again at the end seeing another team celebrate and we are the wallies on the pitch at the end who have got beat again.”
Sunderland made the perfect start against Charlton, taking the lead after just five minutes following a bizarre own goal from Addicks defender Nabby Sarr
But, within a matter of minutes, the Black Cats lost momentum, after manager Jack Ross was forced into a restructure due to an injury to Max Power.
Honeyman, though, wasn't in the mood to make excuses, and admitted his side didn't do enough to win the game.
“It’s a really cruel way to suffer defeat but ultimately we fell short," he added "It’s hard to take. We never really settled. Max was injured earlier, then Luke (O'Nien) had to go off, we just didn’t really settle and I think we have to adapt better to that situation. What can you say?
“I remember asking the ref how long was left after they scored and he was just shaking his head. That’s horrible to take. It was just tough. Two Wembley outings in a year and to fall short is not a nice feeling.
“What could have been such a successful season doesn’t feel like that now let me tell you."
The Charlton defeat brings to an end a long and exhausting campaign for the Black Cats, who have now played a remarkable 61 games in all competitions this term.
Honeyman was visibly drained after the final chapter of this season and is desperate to forget the sickening feeling as soon as possible.
When asked what Ross said to the players after the game, Honeyman said: “The manager thanked us for our efforts, like he said before the game and he repeated that after it. That was about it.
"It’s not really the time to analyse the game. We have had this feeling once before and it’s horrible to experience again.
“That’s the toughest thing, seeing the fans. Seeing the scenes over the weekend, coming down in their numbers again. We were going round clapping them at the end, for supporting us, and it's hard."