Niall Quinn apologises to Sunderland fans

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and star striker Darren Bent today apologised to the club's fans over their derby day humiliation.

Following in the footsteps of manager Steve Bruce, who held up his hands in the immediate aftermath of yesterday's 5-1 Barclays Premier League humiliation at Newcastle, Quinn - who sat stony-faced alongside owner Ellis Short at St James' Park as the debacle unfolded - was in sombre mood as he reflected upon the club's heaviest derby defeat in 55 years.

He told the club's official website: "It is entirely appropriate that we apologise to our fans.

"Whilst acknowledging the hurt that this defeat has caused, I would like to emphasise that everyone at this club will face the music together.

"Last night, the owner and myself sat and reflected on the day's events and we are as defiant as ever that this club is going to make progress.

"While everybody here is suffering, the players' hurt must be galvanised into a big performance on Saturday.

"I'm not asking anyone to have sympathy for us, but we are confident that the solution will be found within the walls of our dressing room.

"We may have to spend a long time apologising, but this entire football club knows that it owes its people right now and for me, that is the priority. "

Quinn's sentiments were echoed by Bent, whose last-minute strike proved no consolation whatsoever.

He said: "We are all sorry about yesterday's result, which was a bad one for everyone concerned.

"It's important someone came out and apologised to the fans, who are the people who pay money to watch the games.

"We let a lot of people down. We know the fans are hurting and believe me, the manager and the players are hurting as badly as you are."

The Black Cats made the short trip to St James' in expectant mood having put together a seven-game unbeaten league run which included victory over Manchester City and draws with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.

However, by Bruce's own admission, they were blown away by a Newcastle side which, despite his warnings, simply handled the occasion better.

A defence which had conceded only seven goals in their previous nine league games proved catastrophically porous as Titus Bramble and Michael Turner, the club's twin towers of strength, were taken apart by the blossoming Andy Carroll and the older head of Shola Ameobi.

In midfield, even combative skipper Lee Cattermole and emerging talent Jordan Henderson could not stem the tide as Cheik Tiote and Joey Barton assumed control to lay the foundation for skipper Kevin Nolan to plunder a hat-trick.

Nolan put the home side 2-0 up within 34 minutes with two close-range finishes, although Bruce will want to know why he was left unattended on both occasions.

The contest was effectively over in first-half injury time when Nedum Onuoha tripped Jonas Gutierrez in the box and Ameobi calmly slotted the penalty past Simon Mignolet.

Bramble's premature departure for a rash 53rd-minute challenge on Carroll rubbed salt into the wound, and the pain simply increased with Ameobi's 70th-minute volley and Nolan's third five minutes later.

Bookings for Steed Malbranque, Onuoha, Phil Bardsley, Cattermole, Turner and substitute John Mensah will result in a fine, but it was the way in which a side which had kept clean sheets in each of its last three games capitulated so readily that set the alarm bells ringing.

Turner said: "Conceding five goals is hard to take any time, but in a local derby, even more so.

"We were confident coming into the game, but we just gave away sloppy goals, scrappy goals, and it killed us in the end."

Bruce later admitted that with hindsight, he might not have fielded so many young players with the likes of Mensah, Kieran Richardson and Bolo Zenden starting on the bench.

Turner said: "We hadn't lost in weeks before the game, so the players have done well and made it difficult for the manager not to pick them.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we are all hugely disappointed with the way it turned out.

"Maybe it got to a few of us."

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