A DEJECTED Martin O'Neill last night admitted Sunderland's latest cup capitulation could force him to reassess the future of some of his players.
The Black Cats crashed out of the FA Cup at the third round stage as Marvin Sordell's second-half double secured Championship side Bolton a 2-0 replay victory at the Stadium of Light.
The defeat follows October's equally dispiriting Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Middlesbrough and leaves Sunderland with only league survival to play for in the final four months of the campaign.
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By the end of this season, it will be more than 40 years since the Wearsiders won their last major trophy, a period that has contained a succession of false dawns and disappointments.
O'Neill accepts the length of Sunderland's barren spell is completely unacceptable, and hinted at major changes in the wake of the club's latest surrender.
“We are going to have to find consistency,” said the Black Cats boss. “If we can't do it with our present team, then we are going to have to...
“This is a big club. I hope I'm not the only person who thinks this. We should not be spending 40 years without winning something, we really shouldn't.
“Forty years is too long for this football club not to have won a trophy. It's far, far too long. We enjoyed a really good run last season and were disappointed to lose to Everton, but that was a quarter-final.
“Here tonight, we had the opportunity to play Everton again but we didn't take it. We are obviously disappointed to be knocked out of the competition and I thought we went out rather too meekly for my liking.”
Sunderland dominated the first half without really troubling Bolton goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, but the game changed when Jack Colback was penalised for a 64th-minute challenge on Darren Pratley.
The full-back appeared to take some of the ball as he went to ground, but with Pratley heading away from goal, there was no need for him to make such a rash tackle.
Sordell converted from the penalty spot, and added a second goal ten minutes later as Sunderland's defenders stood off him in the area.
“We created chances in the first half, but when it was really essential, we didn't take them,” said O'Neill. “We didn't create enough in the second half and Bolton came into the game.
“The penalty was a big moment, although I have to say that Bolton put a big effort in. Jack went to ground and when you do that, you always run the risk.
“I have watched it a number of times and I have to say it was dubious. Jack said he got the first touch and it was a big moment. But Bolton played well and we were disappointing.”
Sunderland's players lacked the urgency and desire that was apparent as they clawed back a two-goal deficit in the original game at the Reebok Stadium, something that added to the sense of bewilderment at the timidity of their exit.
With fewer than 18,000 people inside the Stadium of Light, there was a lack of atmosphere throughout, but O'Neill refused to cite the low attendance as an explanation for his side's lack of spark.
“The crowds have been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “We had 40,000 for West Ham and took 5,000 to Bolton. It's a lot of money. I am disappointed for the people who came.
“It's not hard to live as a professional player. It doesn't matter if it's 100,000 people there or ten. People have still come here and put their hands in their pockets and it's up to the team and myself to galvanise and show more consistency. We need to put a run of four or five games together, maybe not always getting a result, but giving everything in the game.”
Steven Fletcher was the only big-name player missing yesterday, and O'Neill revealed the Scotsman was forced to drop out on the afternoon of the game because of illness. “He is a big miss for us,” he said. “But we should be able to cope.”