Nobody said it was going to be easy and for the newly crowned saviour of a North-east footballing institution this defeat against a well-drilled side confirmed that charisma alone will not be enough to inspire the confidence and style necessary to mount a promotion campaign.
Niall Quinn's dual appointment as chairman and manager was always going to test the mettle of an individual with experience in neither role and the former Republic of Ireland international has been given little time to find his feet as Sunderland's all-controlling figurehead. Two successive defeats to open the season suggest there will be little respite for the former Black Cats favourite and his slowly evolving squad.
"Things have been a little bit difficult for us but I don't think this task is too tough," said a defiant Quinn, despite his team's largely uninspiring performance against a Birmingham City side which, like Sunderland, found last season's Premiership opponents too hot to handle. "I'm convinced that in a different atmosphere, when we go on the run which I'm sure is just around the corner, we'll see things really take off here."
Mikael Forssell, the robust Birmingham striker, provided the cool finish when City were awarded a 40th-minute penalty after the Sunderland full-back Clive Clarke's rash foul on the midfielder Damien Johnson. The composed Finn is exactly the type of predatory finisher Quinn requires if his team is to challenge for promotion.
"I've got to convince two or three Premiership players to come up here and give us a chance," said the man hoping to revive a club in decline. Quinn has completed a deal for the Barcelona playmaker Arnau Riera but further signings are expected this week.
Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, is also keen to strengthen a squad which dealt with this first away test of the season in some style. City barely looked like surrendering their lead and had the Arsenal loanee Nicklas Bendtner converted from close range in the closing stages Sunderland could have had few complaints.
"When you think Nicklas is only 18 he is a very exciting prospect," said Bruce, who has stolen a march on many of his ambitious rivals by recruiting a trio of Arsenal's most outstanding youngsters. All three started at the Stadium of Light and in the midfielder Fabrice Muamba, the winger Sebastian Larsson and the striker Bendtner, it appears City have recruited wisely.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Alnwick; Delap, Caldwell (Clarke, 30), Cunningham, D Collins; Miller, Whitehead, Leadbitter, Lawrence (Stead, 74); Elliott, Murphy. Substitutes not used: Ward, Wright, Smith.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Tebily, N'Gotty, Sadler; Johnson, Muamba (Clemence, 71), Nafti (Danns, 84), Larsson; Bendtner, Forssell (Dunn, 67). Substitutes not used: Doyle, Martin Taylor.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).Reuse content