MARTIN O’Neill bristled at suggestions that a low attendance of just 17,505 at the Stadium of Light might have contributed to Sunderland’s dismal exit from the FA Cup.
The Black Cats were the big name losers in a string of third round replays last night as the in-form Premier League side were humbled by mid-table Championship opposition.
And, for a clearly stung O’Neill, the last thing he was about to blame for a disappointing night was the fans who put their hands in their pockets to buy tickets for a drab display on a bitterly cold night.
“You can’t blame the low crowd for our performance,” he fumed.
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get through for their sake.
“It’s just disappointing and galling that we’ve gone out the way we have – it has nothing to do with the crowd.
“Professional players should produce a good game be it 100 people or 100,000 people watching them.
“It’s 40 years since the club has won a trophy – that’s far too long.
“We had a really good run last season in the cup, and did well in the league at the same time.
“It was a very good time for the club, and I wanted something similar.
“I was hoping for us to get a chance to face Everton again in the cup, but it wasn’t to be, and I’m really disappointed.
“I know people play weakened sides, but that wasn’t the case with us. We put out a side we thought would win.”
No one should under-estimate – least of all his players – how upset and disappointed O’Neill is with Sunderland’s FA Cup exit, and the manner in which his side lost the game.
He was as deflated last night as he was buoyant on Saturday after the emphatic win over West Ham United.
And he had a warning for his squad. He said: “We have to produce consistency.
“I think we should demand this.
“We have to learn to play four or five games well in a row, and if we’re unable to do that with our present team then we have to look at changing the team.
“This is a big club, and we shouldn’t have to be waiting 40 years for a trophy.
“We didn’t take anyone lightly we just didn’t perform as we should.
“We didn’t threaten anywhere near enough in the second half.”