Niall Quinn, Darren Bent and Michael Turner have all apologised to Sunderland supporters after Sunday's abject derby defeat. Sunderland were wholly outplayed by Newcastle United at St James' Park and lost the game 5-1. After the match, manager Steve Bruce said that it was probably his worst experience in football management and his contrition was echoed by Quinn, Bent and Turner.
Quinn enjoyed six and a half seasons on Wearside as a player, scoring 69 goals, and has been chairman for the past four years. As such, the one-sided nature of Sunday's match made a deep impression upon him and he was quick to make a public statement.
"It is entirely appropriate that we apologise to our fans," said Quinn. "While 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 hopes for a quick response are understandable, given that their next game is a home tie with Stoke City before difficult trips to Tottenham and Chelsea. At this stage in the season, Sunderland's record is mixed. They have won only one of their last eight games but can also claim a proud record in harder fixtures, after draws against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United and a stoppage-time win over Manchester City.
That game was won by a Darren Bent penalty and their top scorer was just as apologetic as Quinn in a statement of his own. "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."
Michael Turner played at centre-back for Sunderland and admitted that the defensive performance was not good enough. Four of Newcastle's goals came from Sunderland players failing to mark well enough or react quickly enough in the penalty area, while the other was a penalty after a clumsy tackle from Nedum Onuoha.
"Conceding five goals is hard to take any time, but in a local derby, even more so," said Turner. "We were confident coming into the game, but we just gave away sloppy goals, scrappy goals, and it killed us in the end.
"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."
Newcastle forward Shola Ameobi, who scored twice, yesterday spoke of how much the victory meant to him as someone who grew up in Newcastle and has been at the club for 15 years. "It's indescribable. It's something I dreamt of as a kid and I keep saying I feel lucky to be in the position to do it. It's something I always wished for and now I'm here doing it. I feel blessed. The most important thing was those three points – it shoots you up the table. If we'd have lost it, it dampens things – especially against our local rivals," he said.
Ameobi has scored six goals already this season and has struck up a good partnership with fellow striker Andy Carroll. But, having experienced the disappointment of relegation two season ago, he is keeping his feet on the ground. "In any career you have ups and downs – I'm no idiot, I'm aware of that. I've always kept a level head."