A worried Gus Poyet has told his Sunderland players they must stop hiding behind excuses and bad luck after a stark Stadium of Light wake-up call for the Premier League's bottom side.
The apparent progress of recent weeks felt like it was a distant memory as Sunderland were played off the park by a Tottenham team that might – in Poyet’s words – have won 5-1 if they had more confidence in front of goal. That seemed to dent the confidence of the normally upbeat Black Cats boss, who was a visibly deflated presence in his post-match press conference.
He spoke of players failing to heed multiple warnings about mistakes they were making and of the alarming tendency of the team to score own goals as “no coincidence”.
To be fair, Poyet must take some of the blame for Saturday’s defeat as well, with his decision to go with two strikers in Jozy Altidore and the out-of-sorts Steven Fletcher coming back to haunt the Sunderland boss as his team were overrun in midfield.
The situation is becoming starker with every weekend and Poyet has called for his team to stop trying to find the easy “get out” of bad luck or bad officiating. Again on Saturday, they were the victim of poor decisions when Lee Mason failed to spot a blatant Sandro handball in the second half.
In truth, that would have made little difference to the overall result.
Poyet said on Saturday: “It is too early to analyse the game now because of what I am feeling,
“I hate losing and it is very difficult to explain. I am trying to be calm and I will analyse the game on Sunday and look at the things we did badly in the second half.
“The problem is it is too many. I am a normal person, I can have a fight with you but if you beat me once, you beat me twice, I won’t come a third time. I am not that stupid.
“I am not going to get kicked every time.
“There needs to be a moment when that is it and there are no more excuses or bad luck. That is where we are hiding at the moment
“I always say we. I am not criticising the players, we say we. We made bad decisions. I am the first one, so I am not criticising the players, I am saying we as a group, the staff, the players, every single one of us in the club.
“If you don’t share the urgency, you are not realistic. We are playing West Ham, Cardiff, Norwich, when are we going to win three in a row? Now. It has to be now.
“The idea was to double the points before January, so we have lost another opportunity today and somehow we had a normal performance in the first half and very poor in the second half. There is nowhere to hide.”
Increasingly, it feels as if January might be the last salvation for Sunderland.
Although Poyet has been eager to try and make sure the Black Cats are focused on the points they can win before the transfer window opens, the manager has now admitted that he is hoping to strengthen the squad and there are “plenty of things” going on behind the scenes to try and recruit.
He said: “I am working on that for sure, that doesn’t change my mind. We always thought there were positions we needed to address and there are plenty of things going on behind the scenes that doesn’t change. I hope things will help. How big? I don’t know because I don’t know yet.”
Lifting himself, never mind the players, will be the first order of business for Poyet this morning.
He said: “For me I analyse the game and ask the players to do the same. On Monday we are back and then we will reflect on everything and, like I said, keep convincing the players because from what I see they agree with plenty of things. When they do it right it works, but we need to do it all the time.”