Positives were in short supply for the travelling Sunderland support on Saturday.
Their team were poor yet again, outplayed and largely uncompetitive against a disciplined and solid Middlesbrough unit.
Yet there was one thing to savour and the strong ovation that greeted Ethan Robson as he was replaced by fellow academy graduate Elliot Embleton reflected an encouraging display.
There were some slack passes and the 21-year-old will have been frustrated to see Adama Traore escape his challenge in the build-up to Boro’s first goal, particularly as he had done so well to get the better of him up until that point.
But he showed a real willingness to show for the ball and at least tried to lift the tempo of his team’s play in possession.
Manager Chris Coleman singled him out for praise after the game.
“Young Ethan Robson in his first game, I thought did very well. I was very happy with him,” Coleman said.
For Robson, it was a proud day, starting for the club he has been part of since 2004.
He said: “It was a great day for me making my first start for the club I’ve been with since I was eight years of age. It’s a proud moment for me and my family.
“I think as a young player all you need to do is show what you’ve got and as a young player I was grateful for the opportunity to start the game.
“Since I’ve been eight I’ve wanted to play for this football club, so I wanted to show what I’d got. It was great to get the opportunity.”
The arrival of Chris Coleman has been a watershed moment for many of the club’s youngsters.
Injuries have accelerated their rise to the first-team picture, but, as Coleman continues to fire warnings at his senior players, opportunity knocks for Robson and co.
“We did shape work after training – he called my name out and I was buzzing,” he said.
“I knew what I had to do. I did that shape work and he told us exactly what to do. He’s a good communicator.
“We had a quick chat and he just briefly told us what we needed to do on the ball and off the ball. He’s helped the younger lads a lot by giving them advice.
“He’s really helped us.
“It’s a massive boost to have him in charge. He’s been great with us and we can only get better.”
An encouraging start for Robson. Now the hard work begins.