A CLEARLY despondent Chris Coleman left Bramall Lane urging his players to prove they care about reviving Sunderland’s fortunes after seeing "apathy" in the performance during the defeat to Sheffield United.

Coleman has had a pretty miserable first Christmas in club management after leaving Wales behind, having watched the Black Cats follow up a home draw with bottom club Birmingham City by losing convincingly to the Blades on Boxing Day.

The 3-0 defeat at Bramall Lane could easily have been more and Sunderland remain in the Championship’s relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest and then the visit of Barnsley on New Year’s Day.

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Those two fixtures have grown in significance again, just like so many already have this season, and Coleman will have to consider changes after a performance he felt was not good enough in South Yorkshire – just days after he was left disappointed by the outcome against Birmingham.

Coleman said: “It was a bitterly disappointing performance. We swallowed it, really, whatever Sheffield United threw at us. As soon as we went 1-0 down we just accepted a low-level performance from each other.

“In the second half from the kick-off we were OK and then we conceded a second goal, which was unforgivable really. I could sit here all night and tell you how bad this, that or the other was.

“It's the first time I've seen from them not anger, but apathy, which is very, very dangerous. We've got food for thought, I think.

“Seven games, four weeks I think I've been there but I've never seen that performance. We've been in games but we were never in the game, if we're honest. Sheffield United were stronger, quicker, looked hungrier and fitter.”

Sunderland were second best from the moment the game started at Bramall Lane. The only surprise was that it took until the 36th minute for the Blades to score, when John Lundstam slotted in the opening goal.

After the restart Chris Wilder’s side took control, like they deserved, courtesy of two goals inside four second half minutes from Richard Stearman and George Baldock; those were the result of poor marking in the box.

The Sunderland players were booed off after the final whistle by the 2,200-plus fans who made the trip down, and then inside the dressing room there were some crossed words said. Coleman, though, wants to see greater fight on the pitch.

He said: “What's the point in pretending – we are where we are for a reason. I can only describe my feelings since I've been here and I haven't been disappointed with them. They've worked hard in training and tried to take things on board.

“There's been a lot of chopping and changing but I never saw that coming. I thought it was Boxing Day, Sheffield United, a great game and we weren't there.

“Acceptance is a horrible word to use in football on the back of a hiding. They're not good signs but I'm not panicking. What I saw was everything I didn't want to see.

“There was a bit of arguing with each other after the game but you need that in the first minute – the horse had bolted.

“We were short in too many and we just accepted it. There were too many short cuts and we looked like we were wishing our life away, waiting for the clock to tick down because this was too much for us – let's get out of here. That's how it looked. We got what we deserved – it could have been worse in the end.”

It was the third defeat from Coleman’s seven matches in charge and the first since losing at home to Reading on December 2. Since then they had picked up five points from the available, only for things to come crashing down around them at Bramall Lane – where Wilder’s men had not won since November.

Coleman didn’t want to make excuses either. Lewis Grabban had to be withdrawn from the squad after failing to recover from a calf problem sustained against Birmingham, while Didier Ndong was missing with an ankle injury.

The Sunderland boss said: “At half-time I said we hadn't been great but we had loads of players back (for the opening goal) but we were still in it with loads of time to go so we needed to push them back because they were dictating the tempo and we were letting a good team do what they want to do. Half-time was more tactical, full-time was slightly different.

“Boxing Day is a great day to play football, Bramall Lane is brilliant and we had a ton of supporters there. They didn't deserve that. I'm disappointed with myself and the players but we can't be sitting here too many times saying sorry, I've got to find some answers and do it quickly.

“When you walk onto a football pitch it can be a big, bad, intimidating place if you let it be and at times it looked like that. We looked like we accepted it, we just took whatever the opposition had to throw at us without a crack back.”