Gus Poyet was forced to bite his lip after seeing his Sunderland side blow another golden opportunity to gain a march on their relegaton rivals.
Sunderland’s Christmas progress was obliterated on an afternoon of wastefulness at the Stadium of Light and, with four points still separating them from safety, Poyet did not want to discuss the failings of his team in any great depth for fear of the “consequences”.
He did admit to taking Lee Cattermole off “for the good of the team” after the midfielder’s mistake presented Gabriel Agbonlahor with the easiest of opportunities to give Aston Villa a goal that turned out to be enough to send the three points to the West Midlands. But aside from taking a swipe at referee Mike Jones for a couple of errors – including incorrectly chalking off an Emanuele Giaccherini goal for offside – he was not in the mood to attribute blame.
“It was a very difficult today for me today,” he said. “I need to be careful with what I say because it could bring consequences so I am going to say very little, sorry about that but I think it is best. I think you want to see me here every week so I would prefer to keep it short.
“There is disappointment of course, I didn’t expect that.”
Sunderland will look to return to the table to talk to Brighton about Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt, for whom they have tabled respective bids of £1.75m and £2m.
Sources in Sussex have suggested that Sunderland’s £2m offer for Bridcutt is their “final offer”, but they will need to at least double that to persuade the Championship high-fliers to start talking about one of their star men.
In the here and now Poyet needs his team to improve ahead of a month that will define their season.
They face Carlisle on Sunday before a Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Tuesday – and then a return to Premier League action at Fulham in a fortnight.
Poyet’s downbeat mood may have changed by then, but he was finding it difficult to take.
He said: “Football is unpredictable but when you start well and have chances you have to take them.
“Unfortunately the mistake was against us and after that there were too many nerves and too much tension.
“I don’t know why they were nervous and we were not organised enough. People were making individual decisions, but not thinking as a team and that disappoints me. I’m getting a little bit fed up.
“The weakest people look for excuses and it is all down to us to correct it. We miss quality to play at this level and do what we need to do when we are in control of the game.”
Cattermole’s mistake was a sickener for Sunderland and created a difficult atmosphere, which was part of the reason for the Black Cats captain going off.
Poyet admitted: “After the mistake unfortunately for Lee, it was very difficult for him to carry on and very difficult for him and the players to maintain a good relationship with the fans.
“I thought it was better for the whole team and the whole stadium to drop Lee and make sure we were in a better situation.
“It was not because of the way he was playing or the mistake. It was just better for the team. I am fed up. Yes.”
Referee Jones had let the game get out of control by the conclusion of an untidy contest.
“It could be a good excuse that the referee was poor, he didn’t let us play when we needed to, he stopped the game a hundred times, he talked to everybody and the only thing missing was him making a phonecall,” he said.
“And then the linesman, normally it should be very difficult for a person 50 yards away to see a 5ft 6in player behind a 6ft 2in defender, incredible. He probably saw the top of his hand and gave him offside. That is the excuse of the day today.
“The linesman did something we were not expecting, sometimes these things go for you, today it went against. If you want an excuse, you get one.”