After Sunderland mounted a three-goal comeback at Bristol City in February, Lee Cattermole insisted that the Black Cats would finish the season far stronger than they started it.
‘Bristanbul’ was not the catalyst for a surge in form, but the midfielder has been right that the continuity and familiarity that a settled side brings would lead to improved performances.
It is scant consolation when those performances have yielded just one win in five, a sequence of matches that has only brought one defeat for the struggling side.
The 30-year-old has been left to rue the woeful start to the season and the defensive errors that continue to keep Sunderland from making a significant step up the table.
Six points adrift with just three games to play, following Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Reading, it looks almost certain to be beyond salvation now.
Cattermole said: “I feel like we should be a closer to being out of the bottom three. The last five performances, we have done everything but win the games.
“I think we have lost one in five. We have dominated the games, but, unfortunately, (we’ve conceded) a couple of sloppy goals.
“We are not keeping clean sheets and it is killing us. In terms of performance and attitude from the players in the last five games, that is what it takes to play for Sunderland.
“That is what you need to show – that attitude and desire to work for each other.
“I have said it for five or six years – it takes time and that is why we always finish seasons stronger than we start them.
“Imagine if this were October – we would be delighted with that performance. The manager would be saying, that is what I want to see from you every week.
“We’ve made one or two changes, but, otherwise, we have had a balanced team recently. That is the frustrating position we are in – that is what is tough about it.”