IT was more a lap of dishonour. On Sunday, a half-hour after the final whistle had been blown at the end of a 1-1 draw with Southampton, Paolo Di Canio led his players back on to the park to take a bow.
The message sent across the stadium tannoy system asked for all supporters to remain seated so they could applaud the squad. The vast majority opted to leave.
Who could have blamed them.
Sunderland could still get relegated this season. It is far from outside the bounds of possibility that Wigan, the new FA Cup holders remember, could beat Arsenal tonight.
Do that and you would fancy them to take three points at Aston Villa on the last day.
Sunderland would then require a point from White Hart Lane against a Tottenham side going for the Champions League.
With this uncertainty still to sort itself out, is it any wonder some of the players looked more than a little embarrassed as they trudged around the Stadium of Light waving at empty seats?
“The lap of honour felt awkward,” admitted an admirably honest Alfred N’Diaye, one of his side’s better players in the last few weeks.
“We are still in the Premier League, but we are in 17th position and that is not good enough.
“There were so many fans at the game and so we are very disappointed with the way we played and what we showed them.”
Those who stayed clapped out of a blind loyalty to their team which you cannot help but admire.
It has been another dreadful season which could still end in abject disaster.
The campaign has twisted and turned like a Curly Wurly which has been put into a spin-dryer, but for the most part Sunderland have not so much been flirting with relegation as looking like they wanted to jump into bed with the Championship.
Things must change in the summer and they will. Di Canio knows who he does and does not want in his squad.
Into the latter category must fall James McClean, Connor Wickham and a few others, which may include Seb Larsson who is not tall or vocal – traits the manager wants to see in all his players.
N’Diaye will be here next season because he ticks a lot of the Italian’s boxes. How many of his current team-mates remain is up for debate.
N’Diaye added: “We have good players here, but I think we need more.
“I don’t know what we should do this summer, but first and foremost we have to stay up, then look around us and see what we should do.
“We should be much higher up the league than this.
“West Brom and Swansea are in the top half of the table and we should be where they are as we are as good as them. That is where we should be aiming.
“It is not for me to say what we should do, that’s up to the coach, but all teams need more players and that is maybe what is required.”
Sunderland did well to get a point from a game Southampton dominated in terms of goal-scoring chances.
Fortunately for the club Simon Mignolet is a goalkeeper whose talent for pulling off miraculous saves showed no signs of waning in what was his 100th game for Sunderland. Steven Fletcher’s goals, the change of manager, Wigan’s FA Cup run.
All three will be hailed as vital components if the Black Cats do stay up.
However, Mignolet’s form this season shall overshadow all.
N’Diaye said: “Simon is a quality keeper.
“When I came here I had not seen him or heard of him, but every time he plays he is fantastic. The quality is there for all to see.
“He was brilliant against Southampton and is like that every week. He is such a good goalkeeper and that is why he is being linked with other clubs.
“He is very consistent and against Southampton again he was fantastic.
“I can understand why he has been linked with other teams because this is normal.
“It is very normal for that to happen when you play as well as he does.
“He is better than the keeper at Arsenal, Wojciech Szczesny, he is better than him – no doubt about it.”
N’Diaye is one who does fit the bill. He’s big, powerful and possesses a decent touch, plus clearly has a footballing brain.
He’s still raw, but the Frenchman could turn into a fine midfielder for the Black Cats.
N’Diaye added: “I have loved the Premier League since I came here.
“It has been incredible. It is such an aggressive league, which is what I like. It is not like in France, which is much more technical.
“Here is far more muscular and that is the way I play. In France the fans are not as passionate.”
Let’s hope for Sunderland’s sake the Premier League football he likes so much is still N’Diaye’s to enjoy come August.