Middlesbrough are a million miles from top six, admits Southgate
The Teessiders embarked upon the new campaign with high hopes of bettering the seventh position last term which capped arguably the most successful period in the club's history.
A first-ever trophy - the 2004 Carling Cup - and a creditable European debut which took Steve McClaren's side to the last 16 of the Uefa Cup have raised expectations at the Riverside Stadium.
However, Southgate delivered a blunt assessment of Middlesbrough's current standing after a miserable derby display.
"What do we want to be? Where do we want to be? I keep hearing the top six mentioned - we are a million miles off that at the moment," the 35-year-old said. "Everybody has to go away and look at themselves. It's a collective thing, it's no use us blaming one thing or the other.
"We didn't defend well enough, we had a couple of chances that on another day we might have scored, but Sunderland deserved it on the day. I keep hearing what a good side we are, but until we start putting some consistent results together we have got to stop believing our own publicity a bit."
Southgate continued: "In pre-season we were not particularly impressive and I think sometimes expectations are higher than reality. We need to start putting some consistent results together. Had we won on Sunday things would have looked very different, but we didn't and it is very hard to take."
Middlesbrough's previous home game in the Premiership resulted in a famous 2-1 victory over Arsenal, but the inconsistency which has blighted their season was in evidence once again as they turned in a below-par performance to assist Sunderland in finally ending their 26-game wait for a top-flight win.
Mick McCarthy's side were well organised, committed and when their chances came along they took them, but the Teessiders produced little of the flowing football which has characterised their best displays in recent times.
They were on the back foot almost from the first whistle when, within 90 seconds of the kick-off, the Black Cats' midfielder Tommy Miller fired his side in front. Middlesbrough created chances, but found Kelvin Davis determined to prove his doubters wrong with four superb saves. The last of them, from George Boateng, came in injury-time and by then Julio Arca had wrapped up the points with an outstanding 60th-minute free-kick.
"I don't think we did enough, particularly in the first half, to win the game and it's a big punch on the nose for us," Southgate warned. "Give them a lot of credit, they worked extremely hard, their game plan was very good, they got goals at just the right time."
Middlesbrough now head into Thursday night's Uefa Cup qualifier against Skoda Xanthi in Greece, into which they take a 2-0 first-leg lead, needing to regroup quickly after a difficult few weeks.
"We have not played well enough consistently enough," Southgate admitted. "We had a couple of good performances away at Birmingham and at home to Arsenal, but we have lost two at home now.
"We talk about ourselves being a good side - good sides don't find themselves with eight points from seven matches, so there is a lot of hard work to be done and hopefully this result will galvanise people into doing that because I do not want to be standing here after defeats like that again."
Latest in Sport
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
Arturo Vidal to Real Madrid: Transfer news live - Sergio Ramos to Manchester United, Lukas Podolski to leave Arsenal
Copa America 2015: When does it start, what channel is it on and who should I support?
Chelsea 2015/16 home shirt leaked again as new picture appears online
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture