VURNON ANITA claims the home dressing room inside St James' Park was an awful place after the latest crushing defeat to Sunderland, but he insists Newcastle United still have the leaders to pick them back up.

A frustrating week for Magpies fans got worse on Saturday when a a third successive reversal to the Black Cats arrived on the back of a failure to replace the departed £20m man, Yohan Cabaye.

Cabaye has been a key part of Newcastle's ability to stay in the Premier League's top ten this season and stay in touch with a Europa League spot.

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But a failure to replace the Frenchman before Friday night's deadline day infuriated large sections of the Tyneside support and that intensified after seeing a collapse against their staunchest rivals.

And with skipper Fabricio Coloccini, who has had a spell in Argentina, still sidelined with a knee problem, Pardew must look to other areas of his squad in the hope stand-in captain Cheik Tiote gets help to pick the players back up.

Anita, an experienced international, has no worries, even though a daunting trip to Chelsea is next on the agenda this Saturday.

“They (Cabaye and Coloccini) were big players at this club,” said Anita, knowing Coloccini is due to return to action in the next fortnight. “But we have to go on, show our strength and show we can do it. We must prove to everyone that we have leaders.

“Now we need to show all those fans that we are still up for the challenge. It is so important that we do not let the season fade away.

“We have to stay focused and although we are going to get a lot of criticism, we just have to deal with it.

“Football is a strange game because we could win at Chelsea next week and be heroes again. Football is like that because it is all ups and downs. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”

Despite losing so heavily and comprehensively to Sunderland, Newcastle remain eighth and have 37 points after a pretty impressive first half of the campaign.

But the manner of the Sunderland display, coupled with the way fans channelled their hatred towards owner Mike Ashley and director of football Joe Kinnear so vocally, suggests it could be more difficult to recover.

Anita insisted every member of the team was apologetic after losing 3-0 for the second time in a row on home soil against Sunderland.

The Dutchman, who gave away the penalty which put Sunderland in their way when Fabio Borini score, said: “It’s so disappointing and, of course, it hurts. I have not really got enough words to describe the feelings in my heart and everybody at the club will feel the same.

“We must forget this game as quickly as we can and move on. It’s as simple as that. Everything went wrong. It ended 3-0 and everything that could go wrong did.

“You cannot put the finger on one thing because it was everything. Nothing went right. All we can do is work hard, try very hard to forget it and hope that the pain goes away.”

Despite still sitting 13 points clear of Sunderland, Newcastle have lost five of their last seven matches – including a FA Cup third round exit to Cardiff.

But Anita said: “It’s strange because we have been playing really well lately but not on Saturday. We wanted it so badly and it turned into a disaster for us.

“What can the manager say? Everyone knows what this game meant for all the fans and the players as well. The dressing room is a horrible place to be right now.

“I don’t know why this happened because we have given everyone a good game this season and beaten some of the top teams. I cannot answer why Sunderland have beaten us again.

“Maybe we are trying too hard, I don’t know. Maybe we wanted it too much and that affected us. But it is a derby game and in the end, we let everyone down.”