Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Same Old, Same Old Sad Sunderland; THE MATCH: Sunderland 0 Brentford 2

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Same Old, Same Old Sad Sunderland; THE MATCH: Sunderland 0 Brentford 2

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner at the Stadium of Light @sturayner

"HOW many times have I stood here and said the same things?" asked a disconsolate Chris Coleman after another demoralising defeat.

If only it was just him. When a team is level on points at the bottom of its division - a division which ought to be one too low for a club of Sunderland's stature - you can always question the manager.

You could certainly query some selections - against Brentford, playing centre-back Jake Clarke-Salter at left-back backfired horribly.

You can ask if training is good enough and getting his players mentally fit to combat the challenges facing them is Coleman's remit too.

Saturday's limp 2-0 defeat was the third match since the transfer window closed and the Black Cats do not look better for it.

Take away half an hour at home to Ipswich Town and the attacking side of the last 20 minutes at Bristol City (even then they defended abysmally) and they look worse.

You might ask how you can expect five players signed without spending a penny to revitalise a club in January's relegation zone but Ashley Fletcher has no assists or goals - he missed his big chance during the Ashton Gate comeback - and nor has Kazenga LuaLua, injured on Saturday. Lee Camp has conceded seven times and Clarke-Salter looks a boy trying to learn a man's job.

One supporter snapped during the second half and angrily shouted over to Martin Bain in the director's box, "Are you happy?" Bain, too, has made mistakes and the massive plus he had to cling to at the end of 2017 - attracting the manager of one of the 2016 European Championship semi-finalists - looks insecure while Coleman flails around trying to make headway.

Sunderland's problems seem far more deeprooted than a few individuals - even absentee landlord Ellis Short, the biggest culprit but barely worth railing against because he is thousands of miles away and anyway wants out almost as much as fans want to see the back of him.

There is a real Groundhog Day feel to watching Sunderland, particularly at the Stadium of Light.

They were never in Saturday's first half, deficient in every basic area.

Theirs is not a squad of worldbeaters but nor are they as inept as they performed against opponents down in the dumps - just as Bristol City had been - after dropping off the play-off pace.

Simple passes went astray, defending was often statuesque, dribbles ended down cul-de-sacs. Each convinced those in the stadium - fans, Sunderland players and opponents - this was going to be another one of those days. It became self-fulfilling.

The questions come much more easily than the answers.

Of the 13 players Coleman used - not including Bryan Oviedo, dropped from the squad after recent erratic displays - only Billy Jones, John O'Shea and Lee Cattermole were first-team regulars before this season. …

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