Sbragia faces moment of truth
Ricky Sbragia may have been stretching the truth to breaking point by suggesting Sunderland "just didn't turn up" to face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday - but he was not far off the mark.
Sbragia's list of complaints about Sunderland's performance in the 3-0 defeat at the Hawthorns read like a suicide note written in advance of the sad death of their Premier League status.
Sunderland's decent and dignified manager refused to hide - unlike so many of his players - and here is a rundown of just some of the problems he detected.
"Embarrassing...poor...can't explain...passing was poor and decision-making was poor...didn't raise the tempo...did nothing...front two poor...wasn't acceptable...firing blanks all day...we probably went wrong turning up."
The final point was a slight contradiction to Sbragia's claim that Sunderland did not actually turn up - but you get the idea, and if anything he was going easy on them.
In other words, the only thing Sunderland offered in any serious quantity was huge encouragement to every team below them in the Premier League.
Sbragia will seek answers to Sunderland's growing problems by viewing a video of this debacle and "studying ProZone stuff."
Nothing wrong with that - but Sbragia's first move must be to ask Sunderland's players if they have the heart for the bitter dogfight facing them over the final four games.
You cannot fool the fans and the reaction of Sunderland's supporters, comfortably the club's star performers at The Hawthorns, should tell Sbragia significantly more than anything he will glean from a match video or cutting edge performance analysis.
Indeed, Sunderland were so bad that they did not even offer Sbragia the chance to reach for the losing manager's usual lifebelt of "taking the positives." No positives to take here.
Sunderland's players, at least those brave enough to venture towards their followers, swiftly realised the level of hostility being directed towards them and beat a hasty retreat to the dressing room.
West Bromwich Albion may be heading back to the Championship after only one season, but Tony Mowbray's side were more cohesive, more stylish and possessed more desire on a day when a victory for Sunderland would have cleared so many of the clouds of concern starting to gather over Wearside.
Mowbray wisely refused to get sucked into talk of great escapes, a la 2005, but there was much more to encourage him at The Hawthorns than Sbragia.
Sbragia made the candid, some might say frightening, admission that his team looked "disinterested." He must get them interested again sharpish or there is trouble ahead.
Sunderland may have more talented individuals but that was exactly what they were, individuals, and in that guise they are no use to Sbragia. He has a week to weld them back together to face Everton or the unthinkable awaits.
And the unthinkable is that it could be Sunderland stretching out the helping hand to lift (whisper this in the north-east) Newcastle United out of the Premier League's quicksand, then diving in themselves to take their place.
Luckily for Sunderland, there may just be enough poor teams knocking about at the bottom of the Premier League to save them - but you would not bet the house on it on this evidence.
There is talent in the Sunderland ranks. Djibril Cisse and Kenwyne Jones carry a serious threat when they are in the mood, while Steed Malbranque and Kieran Richardson can offer potent support.
Irony also made an appearance after what Sbragia admitted was the worst day of his fledgling managerial career. And it came in the shape of news that his predecessor Roy Keane had started his Ipswich Town reign with an outstanding 3-0 win at Cardiff City.
Keane took a swipe at Sunderland's owners for interference in the latter days of his reign at the Stadium of Light - so another of Sbragia's tasks is to avoid the possibility of an awkward silence in Championship boardrooms next season.
Sbragia was brutally honest about Sunderland's plight and performance, and he must now prove he has the managerial expertise to reverse the worrying trends on show at The Hawthorns.
West Brom's performance is more likely to be an act of defiance as opposed to a precursor to survival, but the mood was still buoyant and Mowbray insisted their supporters have enjoyed watching their team this season.
They certainly enjoyed the performance of Scottish youngster Graham Dorrans, a £100,000 buy from Livingston last summer. He does not possess great pace, but he showed composure on the ball and an eye for a pass - including one glorious 60-yard diagonal eye-opener played to the right flank in the first half.
It might have served Mowbray better, at least in terms of survival, if he had tailored his passing principles to inject a more ruthless streak into his side, but he is not for turning.
This win, at least, prolongs hope for a little longer, and it was the least the Baggies' fans deserved for their vibrant support that will make The Hawthorns a loss to the Premier League if they do go down.
Sunderland have better hopes of staying up - but the nerves will have been rattling on the long coach journey back to Wearside, especially with Newcastle suddenly eyeing their neighbours offering them real hope of survival.