CHRIS COLEMAN openly admits he needs a new goalkeeper and striker before the transfer window closes tonight, and he is right to have identified those weaknesses within his squad. The problem is that he also needs four new defenders, four new midfielders and someone else to play in attack. At the moment, the business he is likely to conduct is akin to using a sticking plaster to try to mend a broken leg.

This is a Sunderland side careering headlong towards League One, and for all that Coleman is trying manfully to limit the damage, he is effectively having to deal with the effects of almost a decade of chronic mismanagement. If you constantly appoint the wrong people and squander millions and millions on players who are simply not up to the job, this is what you eventually end up with. A shell of a club heading towards oblivion.

Birmingham started last night below Sunderland in the table, but ended it on a completely different plane. The hosts scored three and might well have had at least as many again as the Black Cats’ cobbled-together collection of youngsters and cast-offs proved unable to even come close to matching them.

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Robbin Ruiter produced his usual error-prone performance in goal, Lamine Kone was lamentable at the heart of the visitors’ back five, and the likes of Ethan Robson, George Honeyman and Joel Asoro were like lambs to the slaughter such was extent of Birmingham’s dominance. Coleman is having to play them, but goodness knows how badly they will be scarred by the experiences of this season.

Ruiter was at fault as David Davis opened the scoring in the 28th minute, Jake Clarke-Salter was to blame as Jeremie Boga doubled Birmingham’s lead shortly before the interval, and the entire Sunderland defence went missing as Sam Gallagher claimed the hosts’ third goal at the start of the second half. The only positive was that Birmingham’s scoring finished there, with Bryan Oviedo claiming a consolation for the Black Cats with seven minutes left.

Coleman will hope today’s transfer business addresses at least some of the failings, but it is hard to see how another couple of loan additions will make a difference.   

In terms of much-discussed potential departures from the Stadium of Light, it will be a case of one going and one staying put. Didier Ndong’s miserable spell on Wearside is at an end – temporarily at least – with a loan move to Watford having been agreed, but Kone remains a Sunderland player despite having first expressed a desire to leave Wearside more than 12 months ago.

For all the talk of interest from France, Sunderland did not receive a single offer for the Ivory Coast international, and so with John O’Shea struggling with an illness, Kone found himself back in the starting line-up last night for the first time since October.

It seems like an eternity ago now, but back at the start of the season, Kone produced a handful of displays that suggested he was going to take the Championship by storm. His form has disappeared since then, and for all that a long-term knee injury is a mitigating factor, Sunderland desperately need the 28-year-old to knuckle down in the final four months of the season.

Last night, he found himself playing between two youngsters in the shape of Clarke-Salter and Tyias Browning, and displayed little in the way of leadership or authority. That will surely have to change if Sunderland are to survive.

The Black Cats’ defence was shambolic throughout, a trait that has been a chronic problem all season. Throw in a pair of error-prone goalkeepers, and you have a number of the ingredients needed for relegation.

The entire Sunderland backline was caught out by a long clearance from David Stockdale in only the second minute, and while Boga could only fire harmlessly into the side-netting, a pattern had been set.

Eight minutes later, and the visitors were breathing a huge sigh of relief as an unmarked Sam Gallagher failed to find the target as he met Boga’s free-kick with a powerful header from the edge of the six-yard box.

Oviedo came to Sunderland’s rescue as his sliding tackle prevented Maghoma reaching Gallagher’s square ball midway through the first half, but it felt as though the Wearsiders’ charmed existence could not last. Sure enough, when they erred again shortly before the half-hour mark, Birmingham claimed a deserved advantage.

Clarke-Salter was initially at fault as he found himself caught under a high ball, enabling Davis to advance towards the area. The Blues midfielder played a slick one-two with Maghoma, but Ruiter should really have cut out his low shot. Instead, the Sunderland goalkeeper allowed the ball to creep underneath him to add yet another error to the charge sheet that can be levelled in his direction this season. No wonder Coleman is so desperate to sign a new goalkeeper.

Birmingham’s opener robbed Sunderland of what little life they had previously displayed, and having dominated possession in the build-up to half-time, the hosts doubled their lead a minute before the break.

With Kone collapsed in a heap close to the centre-circle, Maghoma swept down the right-hand side to deliver an inviting cross into the penalty area. Adam Matthews was caught flat-footed as Boga powered into the area, and Birmingham’s Chelsea loanee dispatched an excellent header into the bottom right-hand corner.

A two-goal deficit was probably a fair reflection of the opening 45 minutes, with Birmingham’s pace and athleticism a marked contrast to Sunderland’s limp efforts at both ends of the field.

Asoro and Josh Maja might boast plenty of potential, but on a night like this, faced with two imposing, streetwise centre-halves, the pair looked like schoolboys drafted into a man’s game. They produced the occasional flick or turn that threatened to cause problems, but were quickly brushed aside before they could do any damage.

Oviedo’s 17th-minute strike produced a panicked punch from Stockdale, and Maja dragged a tame shot wide of the target midway through the first half. On the whole, though, Sunderland looked a side devoid of an attacking threat.

They were also constantly on the verge of defensive collapse, and they imploded again as Birmingham claimed a third goal ten minutes into the second half.

Gallagher’s flick-on sent Maghoma scampering into the area, but Ruiter initially did reasonably well to force the winger wide. At that stage, you would have thought someone would have thought it wise to get close to Gallagher given that he was the only Birmingham player in the area, but instead, the Blues striker found himself in complete isolation as he rolled Maghoma’s square ball into the net.

The Blues spent the rest of the second half going through the motions, and Sunderland struck the woodwork with 11 minutes left. Oviedo met Aiden McGeady’s low cross with a neat back-heel, but the ball hit the base of the post.

Oviedo was Sunderland’s best player by a distance, and he claimed his first goal of the season with seven minutes left. Matthews crossed from the right, and the Costa Rican wing-back drilled home a crisp first-time volley.