Abject, bereft of ideas and 'completely unacceptable.' A handful of some of the words used within the walls of the Stadium of Light to describe Sunderland's 5-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers. Did anyone see it coming?

Probably not after the first 15 minutes, where the Black Cats were the dominant side in the game without creating many clear cut chances, but a look round the Stadium of Light with ten minutes to go told you everything you need to know about their current plight. 

Nine games, one win, one draw and seven losses. There can be no sugar coating it, that's relegation form. Fortunately for Sunderland, their form in the first third of the season has given them a cushion to the relegation zone and there's no immediate danger - yet - of them dropping into the third tier given their 11 point cushion.

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It took a very long dog walk post-match to try to make sense of the Easter Monday defeat, and still, almost 24 hours on, it's still difficult to break down. Fresh from a win over Cardiff City, Sunderland should have been full of confidence heading into the clash with Rovers, buoyed by injured players returning, but it was the polar opposite.

Passes going astray, no real intent to press as a group, a lack of cutting edge in the final third. They're all now becoming traits of a Sunderland side that was once swashbuckling and free flowing under Tony Mowbray.

There can be no denying, the sacking of Mowbray was the catalyst for the horror show that's followed, but if we flick through the catalogue of bad calls, we find ourselves where we are today.

Mike Dodds was furious with his players in his post-match press conference, telling reporters some of them wouldn't pull on the Sunderland shirt again if they didn't respond in the right manner against Bristol City. A brave call, but how much threat lies in that message?

We Are Sunderland: Sunderland interim head coach Mike Dodds.Sunderland interim head coach Mike Dodds. (Image: Ian Horrocks)

After all, Dodds has just six games left during his interim tenure, with the search still ongoing for a new head coach. It's fair to say based on results, Dodds would find it tough to throw his hat in the ring for the job on a permanent basis, with a return to the first-team coaching staff something he's comfortable with.

You can't get away from the fact Dodds is a likeable character, gets on well with the players, etc, etc, but this a results business. He knows that. The players know that. And yet, the Black Cats hierarchy are taking their time with the next appointment.

If you're to believe the managerial rumour mill, all signs would point to a move for Will Still in the summer, but when Paul Heckingbottom's name was listed as the main target for the Wearsiders last week, according to Alan Nixon, it raises more questions. Not because of his suitability for the role, but why, given he's been out of work since leaving Sheffield United in December 2023, have they not acted if he is their number one target?

Regardless of whether he is or not, Sunderland cannot afford to let this meandering continue. They need to fast forward their push for a new manager to inject some fresh ideas into the building.

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The Black Cats need a positive end to the season, or risk fans turning their backs. When the attendance of 42,019 was read out over the PA system against Blackburn, those that stayed in the ground laughed it off as the red and white faithful made their message clear with their feet.

It's worth saying, one bad season, doesn't mean ownerships should sell or recruitment models that have stood them in good stead prior to this season should be scrapped, just like one good season doesn't mean a return to the Premier League is a realistic target with this current squad. The truth of the matter, probably lies somewhere muddled in the murky waters.

This season has shown the recruitment model needs some flexibility and that expectations which have been set from those at board level need to be tempered. Supporters could do with hearing from their sporting director or owner about the search for a new head coach, with a consistent clear message.

Dodds' spoke about protecting his players, and needing to protect himself prior to the international break, saying he'd throw himself under the bus before his players. The defeat to Blackburn, saw no such act of bravery.

Furious with his players and the performance, he made that clear. There's nothing 'high performance culture' about a 5-1 defeat in your own back yard against a side that's fighting against the drop.

For a man who has aspirations of managing in the future, he needs help from those above him or risks tarnishing his own reputation as a coach. Since returning to the dugout, he has repeatedly stressed he didn't ask to be put in the position, but will give it his best shot.

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We Are Sunderland asked Dodds the latest on the managerial situation prior to the international break, only for him to reiterate he'll take charge until the end of the season. A question that would have been more fitting for Kristjaan Speakman. Defeat to Bristol City may very well force their hand.

The win at Cardiff only papered over the cracks. The Black Cats cannot afford to stumble over the line this season. They need to try and pick up some steam and be ready to hit the ground running next season.

Bringing in a new head coach and giving them the final few games as a free hit, should be the starting point. Fans deserve better than what they're being served up at the moment.