Two years on from Sunderland’s 8-0 thrashing at Southampton - are they any better off?

Sunderland's Santiago Vergini picks the ball from the net behind goalkeeper Vito Mannone after Southampton's Sadio Mane scored his side's eighth goal during the Barclays Premier League match at St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton.

Sunderland's Santiago Vergini picks the ball from the net behind goalkeeper Vito Mannone after Southampton's Sadio Mane scored his side's eighth goal during the Barclays Premier League match at St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton.

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It is two years to the day since Sunderland hit what many imagined would be rock bottom in their modern history - an 8-0 thrashing at the hands of Southampton.

But while much has changed since then, the question must be asked: are things even worse now for the Black Cats than they were then?

Three own goals epitomised Sunderland’s humiliation as they were ripped apart at St Mary’s by a Saints side that would go on to finish seventh in the Premier League.

Gus Poyet was a year into his spell in charge at the club, having steered Sunderland to 14th place the previous season, and his side had struggled to get going in the 2014-15 campaign.

But with one league win ahead of their trip to the south coast, and lying 16th in the table, Poyet’s men had more to console them than David Moyes’ strugglers do today.

At the foot of the league, without a win in their opening eight fixtures and the manager warning almost from the off of a relegation battle ahead, Sunderland fans are braced for long-term pain rather than the type of one-off agony inflicted by the Saints in 2014.

Personnel-wise there has been a big turnaround at the Stadium of Light, with just three of the players involved in that defeat - John O’Shea, Patrick van Aanholt and Jack Rodwell - making Sunderland’s matchday squad against Stoke last weekend.

Vito Mannone, Lee Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson are also still at Sunderland, but injured, while fellow 8-0 veterans Santiago Vergini, Wes Brown, Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher have all departed.

To Sunderland’s credit, the team that lost at Stoke on Saturday looks vastly better on paper, with more creativity and goal threat in the shape of Wahbi Khazri and Jermain Defoe.

Another plus is the emergence of academy players Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore.

But in terms of stability in the dug-out, Sunderland were experiencing a period of relative stability with Poyet in 2014 (he lasted 17 months in the job), while this summer saw Sam Allardyce eventually leave Sunderland for the England job and Moyes become the Black Cats’ sixth boss in barely three years.

Moyes is established at Premier League level, of course, and his reputation for getting the best out of players survived his failure at Manchester United.

But not for much longer unless Sunderland give some hint of a revival this season.

For if there IS a significant plus for Sunderland in 2016 vs 2014, it is that they remain a Premier League club.

Yes, that may have had more to do with other teams self-destructing, but Sunderland’s top-flight status remains intact for another seven months at least.

Progress though?

Yes, a positive for the Wearsiders is the emergence of several talented young players – not least goalkeeper Pickford - who could provide the pillar of their side for years to come.

But that is if they can maintain their Premier League status.

And that is an even bigger "if" now than it was following that humiliation two years ago…

They have managed to avoid another loss as bad as this one, and they remain a top-flight club, but other than that not much has changed for Sunderland.

Will they be able to say the same in two years time?