Sunderland captain John O’Shea says the club must learn lessons from its second relegation in as many years and move quickly in the transfer market.
O’Shea was named as the Sunderland Supporters’ Association player of the year last night, having again been the mainstay of the club’s defence this season.
The 36-year-old has featured 38 times in all competitions across the current campaign, with his fellow defenders suffering from poor form and injuries.
O’Shea has echoed manager Chris Coleman’s comments that Sunderland need a more robust squad in the coming years, with more players at a peak age.
He said: “I think it is a sign maybe of the club’s shortcomings [playing so many games as a veteran].
“What’s needed in the Championship, the power and durability that teams who are successful have.
“Ultimately, they have that core, whether it be eight or nine playing pretty much every week, mid to late 20s, banging out 7/8 out of 10 performances every week.
“You see that in every team that wins promotion, really.
“The injuries have hurt us. You look at the players like Paddy [McNair], who has come back and made a real difference.
“It shows what we need going forward and it has to happen quickly, to be honest.
“How many times have we left it late in the transfer window?
“We need to do things quickly, which we probably said at the end of last season.”
O’Shea admits that the squad has under performed this season and that fans have every right to vent their frustrations.
The Irishman hopes that the club can regroup and bounce back from League One, as the likes of Southampton, Leicester, Wolves and now Blackburn Rovers have done.
He admitted: “It’s a horrible feeling.
“It’s one of those things, what do you keep saying? Something has to stop. Back-to-back relegations, it’s not something I ever thought would happen at the start of the season.
“You looked at it as a chance to bounce back or to come close to bouncing back, but you end up dropping down another league.
“Especially the way the game against Burton went, 1-0 with five minutes to go or whatever it was, then it goes like that, it makes it all the more painful.
“Too many draws in games where we have played better is what has cost us ultimately, not being able to see a game out. I think we’ve had more draws than anyone else in the league.
“It’s everybody [responsible] but we’re the people who go out on the pitch, and like in any sport if the results are not going well it’s not going to be a pleasant atmosphere. The fans are more than right to vent their anger.
“We’ve shown in glimpses that we can put in decent performances against decent teams, but not often enough, unfortunately.
“Some of the results we’ve had against the better teams suggests we’ve underperformed – it is that consistency that we’ve been lacking.
“There are big clubs who have regrouped [in League One], been backed and, with us, the loyalty of the fans will still be there.
“When I signed on for this season, I hoped we’d get that momentum swinging back, but we couldn’t get it going.”
O’Shea himself faces an uncertain future with his Sunderland contract expiring. He intends to move into coaching at some stage, but firmly and publicly rejected claims earlier in the season that he would retire.
His future could lie away from Wearside, but for now he says he will ‘let the dust settle’ and finish the season ‘properly and professionally’.
* Swedish prospect Joel Asoro won the Sunderland Supporters Association’s Young Player of the Year award following his breakthrough campaign.