CARLOS Cuellar admits he has to carry a burden of blame for Sunderland’s 6-1 thrashing at Aston Villa.
But the defender promises fans no-one could have taken the beating more personally than he did on Monday night, after his most difficult game since joining the red and whites last summer.
Mistakes from the Spanish centre-half led directly to two of Villa’s goals, while he was unfortunate to also deflect a third past keeper Simon Mignolet.
But virtually nobody who played for Sunderland did themselves justice at Villa Park and Cuellar has revealed that, after watching the game back again, no one has been singled out for blame and everyone knows they have to take collective responsibility.
“It was all the more painful for me, because it was against my old club and it was my first time back playing at Villa Park,” Cuellar told the Echo.
“I wanted to play well, I wanted to win, and I wanted to show everyone how much it meant to me.
“In the first half, I think I did OK, but, in the second half, I don’t know what happened – everything I tried went wrong. We went in at half-time at 2-1, and we were still in the game and felt that we could get something out of it.
“But in the second half, as a team, everything we tried to do backfired.
“We worked all week to prepare, but we are only human and we made mistakes.
“Every header we tried to win, we lost; every simple pass went astray; and every time we had to defend, Villa had a chance.
“We went through the video on Tuesday and analysed the mistakes we made.
“But there was no finger-pointing, because it does no good to blame individuals.
“We win as a team, and we lose as a team. We are professional. We accept that we made mistakes and, as a team, we take responsibility.”
Sunderland’s defeat, their biggest since 2010, threatens to undermine the momentum gained by successive wins over Newcastle and Everton.
But Cuellar, who played for Villa for four years before moving to the North East, says Sunderland cannot afford to dwell on their nightmare at his old stamping ground.
Instead, they must concentrate all their energy on Monday’s home game against Stoke City, knowing one more win would effectively secure survival.
“We have analysed the mistakes and learned from them, but we have to forget the Villa game now and focus on Stoke,” he said.
“It was an embarrassing scoreline and an embarrassing performance at Villa, but we cannot cry about it all week – there is nothing to be gained from that.
“Of course, it is painful to have lost, but those three points have gone – we have to concentrate on getting three points on Monday now.
“We cannot afford to keep on going over the past, because if you do that then you are not concentrating on the next match.
“We have to be mentally strong, clear our heads and focus 100 per cent on Stoke City.
“The Stoke game is one of the most important games of the season for us. If we win, the mathematics won’t say we are quite safe, but we know we will be 99 per cent there.”