They have made a habit of the Houdini, but Sunderland know the risks are too high to entertain a trilogy when it comes to their franchise in cheating the Championship.
Given their wretched start to the season, seven goals conceded in defeats to two sides they were confident of beating, to even be in with an outside hope of salvation in May is a plot already lost on many of those fans who joined the exodus when Nathan Redmond dispatched Norwich City’s third goal with more than half an hour remaining.
“The start we’ve had is obviously worrying and we can’t come as close as we have done in the last two years (to relegation),” Lee Cattermole, skipper in the baffling absence of John O’Shea, admitted after Sunderland posted their worst defensive start to a season for 45 years.
Unless Dick Advocaat orchestrates a swift improvement at both ends of the pitch, the Wearside club can forget any hope of engineering their latest dramatic escape, they’ll be down before the Spring.
Advocaat was promised significant funds for squad strengthening to secure his return as head coach in the summer. Despite bringing in five players, Sunderland have a modest net spend of less than £15m given the sale of Connor Wickham to Crystal Palace.
It has resulted in a lack of quality ruthlessly exploited by both Leicester and Norwich, who were put on the path to a comfortable first victory since their return to the top flight with goals from Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker before the break.
“There might be an automatic assumption we’ll struggle having come up, but we don’t see it that way,” Redmond said after his fifth goal in six games sealed a first Norwich win on Wearside since 1997.
He added: “We know what we’re capable of. We’re a good passing side and we’ll do what we know we can, and hope that will be enough.”
It was more than enough to account for Sunderland, who were unconvincing in every aspect of the game - even in their consolation, a mis-hit volley from sub Duncan Watmore.
However, it was a collective no-show that led to a frank exchange of views between Advocaat and his players yesterday, though to term it as some did ‘crisis talks’ was going a little far for what was a scheduled team meeting.
“What’s said there will remain in-house,” Cattermole added
Pantilimon 4; Jones 4, Coates 3, Kaboul 3, van Aanholt 3; Larsson 3 (Graham 46, 4), Cattermole 4, M’Vila 4; Defoe 4, Fletcher 4 (Watmore 70, 6), Lens 4.
Mannone, Bridcutt, Rodwell, Matthews, O’Shea.
Ruddy 7; Whittaker 7, Martin 8, Bassong 7, Brady 8; Tettey 8; Redmond 8 (O’Neil 83, 6), Hoolahan 8 (Johnson 62, 6), Dorrans 7, Howson 7; Jerome 6 (Grabban 68, 6).
Rudd, Wisdom, Hooper, Bennett.
Kevin Friend 7