Sunderland lost once again on Tuesday night and the recent dip in form is beginning to concern former player Stephen Elliott, who launched a tirade against the players for their role in the defeat.
The Black Cats had positioned themselves perfectly for automatic promotion just a few weeks ago, but the loss to Bristol Rovers means they are without a win in four games and have now slipped out of the play-off places.
Phil Parkinson will cut a frustrated figure as other promotion rivals missed out on points last night too, such as Portsmouth, and the north-east outfit have now missed the chance to take full advantage of playing before most of the clubs around them.
From a mathematical perspective they are still well and truly in the hunt for promotion, including the automatic spots since they are three points behind Rotherham.
For Elliott, Tuesday’s showing was simply unacceptable and it strikes a big blow into Sunderland’s morale and hopes of going up, as it was a game on paper that they needed to be winning.
Speaking on Twitter after the match, the former striker said:
“Not enough hunger in this squad to better themselves and get promoted. I feel (the) majority of squad know they won’t be good enough for Championship and aren’t that bothered about going up as they will be moved on from club if they do. Just happy to be here in L1.”
This is a vital period in the season for Sunderland as it threatens to end their hopes of achieving their main goal this term.
It is not as worrying as Elliott makes out, however, as the situation can be rectified with some strong leadership shown by Parkinson, and whether he has the managerial ability to freshen things up and give the squad a lift for the eight remaining games.
The Black Cats’ boss finally decided to make changes with Lynden Gooch and George Dobson making way for Antoine Semenyo and Josh Scowen, both of whom signed in January.
It was a bold call considering how reluctant he has been to freshen things up, but it didn’t pay off, and perhaps if those two are brought back in against Blackpool on Saturday having had a rest, they will reach the top of their game again.
To criticise a lack of hunger is harsh considering the turnaround that’s happened under Parkinson, and given Sunderland’s next four games are against teams in the bottom half of the table, they have a great opportunity to put themselves firmly back in the promotion race.
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