THE first 48 hours are the worst. If Sunderland supporters are feeling the pain of more Wear-Tyne derby woe, they can rest assured manager Steve Bruce is agonising just as much as they are.
For while Saturday was not the humbling Bruce suffered in his first derby engagement, the frustration is even more acute than it was following that Halloween horror show last season.
This time, he reflects, Sunderland should have won.
Two viewings of the game on Sunday merely reinforced Bruce’s belief his side deserved something from the match – especially when he feels they “slaughtered” their North East rivals for 45 lopsided minutes.
That they did not has been gnawing away at the manager, who is irked by suggestions his position will come under scrutiny on the back of one game.
It is, unfortunately for Bruce, something he has had to come to terms with twice in his time as Black Cats boss.
It gets no easier, the hurt at losing no less raw than it was last year.
Even a call to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger – ludicrously tagged as under-pressure himself following a slow start to the Gunners’ season – failed to lift the spirits.
Bruce said: “I just go quiet for the first 48 hours and reflect and think ‘did I do this right, did I do that right?’” he said.
“I just go quiet and within myself. My wife knows to just leave me alone, bless her. She takes it too, unfortunately.
“I did not do anything on Sunday. Watched three matches, watched our game twice.
“We slaughtered them in the first half, second half it was a typical derby game and that suited them.
“ It was stop-start, there were free-kicks . . .
“ It just did not suit us at all.”
By the third day following a defeat, Bruce says he is usually back to his normal self.
With a Carling Cup trip to Brighton that is fraught with danger, the Sunderland boss will need to have all of his faculties with him to avoid another costly reverse.
He accepts defeat against Newcastle carries more weight than any other loss, but retains a sense of the bigger picture.
A need for the Black Cats to “bear their teeth” is a common theme of a pre-Brighton briefing which developed into an unwanted dissection of another disappointing derby defeat.
Bruce added: “I learned last year how difficult it is up here. It is the clamour after one result.
“Nobody is more disappointed than me – and dejected, but that is managing up here, there is a clamour and I amapparently “under pressure. “You are always under pressure, you just have to handle it.
“I can handle it, I have been doing it a long time. What I normally do is ignore the pressure and get on with it.
“You need to show your teeth and come out fighting. We did that last year.” Bruce will aim to transmit that belief to his players, who he feels have been a little unfairly pilloried in the wake of Saturday’s defeat.
Having highlighted the impact of Stéphane Sessègnon – Saturday’s outstanding attacker – there is a determination to “make amends” for the derby defeat on the South Coast this evening.
Some new arrivals will be given their debuts – including Keiren Westwood in goal – but for the most part Bruce will allow the players who were defeated on Saturday to tilt for personal redemption. Not that apologies were on the agenda yesterday.
He said: “Nobody is going to tell me any different, we murdered them in the first half and needed to score.
“We have seen it time and again in the Premier League, if you have total dominance but you do not take your chance there is always that chance you can fall to what we fell to.
“I am not going to have my judgement clouded.
“I have seen all this nonsense in national papers that Newcastle thoroughly deserved it and all the rest of this nonsense.
“We gave a bad goal away and it cost us in a derby game.
“The only way we can do it is respond and respond in the right manner, by winning the Cup game.”
If they do not quite make it back in time for Brighton tonight, the cavalry are awaiting.
The good news is they bring steady heads to steer Sunderland through potentially choppy waters.
John O’Shea will play at right-back against Swansea, for example, with Bruce thankful for having a player of his experience when points are a priority.
He added: “We have good characters in our squad and others to come in.
“John O’Shea w ill play against Swansea.
“ I will not risk him at Brighton, but he has trained three or four times so we will train him all week – there is a new signing who will improve us.”