MIKE Dodds walked into the Stadium of Light press room, fell into his seat and let out a big sigh. Life as a head coach, eh. And it had only been five days.

Forty-five minutes earlier, Dodds must have felt like shouting and screaming rather than just sighing after a remarkably bad first half, though he'd have had to give himself a telling off as well, for he admitted he was as much to blame as Sunderland's players.

Coping without Jack Clarke was always going to be the ultimate Sunderland challenge and this was a worrying flash forward to the future. If indeed Clarke does depart in the summer, the Black Cats must adapt far better than they did on Saturday.

A top six finish is now looking increasingly unlikely but with Clarke fit the improbable is at least possible. Sunderland need him back.

Dodds showed in his December stint that he isn't afraid to make bold decisions and it worked in Sunderland's favour a couple of months ago when the the interim boss surprised Leeds on the way to an impressive home victory. He tried to surprise Swansea on Saturday but it backfired badly, Sunderland looked confused and it could quite easily have turned into a first half humiliation.


Sunderland made Swansea's Brazilian winger Ronald look more like Ronaldinho. He scored both goals and could have had a hat-trick. So too could Przemysław Płacheta, the winger on the other side of the pitch.

In the absence of Clarke and Dan Ballard, Dodds switched to a back three, with debutant Callum Styles at left wing-back but tasked with pushing into the centre of midfield when Sunderland had possession. Jobe Bellingham would then move into a central striker role, with Nazariy Rusyn and Abdoullah Ba either side. It was muddled, ineffective and Dodds was forced into a change before the first half was out.

The interim boss held his hands up afterwards and admitted it didn't work, but won't be deterred by the difficult first half and insists he will continue to be bold in his selection and approach between now and the end of the season.

"I've got to be authentic to me," he said.

"There has to be a balance. It's not lost on me the magnitude of this football club and how much it means to the fans.

"I've only been here a short period of time in terms of my time up here but I've fallen in love with the area and the club.

"I'm not gambling with the decisions, I'm not a roulette table, but I will make decisions that put us more on the front foot and in people's faces.

"I felt in terms of the general set-up that was the case. The reality was it wasn't. That's something I'm fully aware of.

"What I don't want is people thinking every week I'm just gambling, that's not the case. I will be really clear in terms of what I want to do game to game."

What Sunderland need to do if they're to stand any chance of closing what is now an eight-point gap to the top six is win but that won't be easy in the coming fortnight. It's a trip to Norwich - unbeaten in five - next followed by Leicester and Southampton.

Play like they did in the first half on Saturday and Sunderland have no chance of getting anything from those games. Ronald opened the scoring on 19 minutes when he turned in a close-range rebound after Anthony Patterson had denied Liam Cullen. The winger lashed in his second just nine minutes later after taking down a sublime Joe Allen through-ball. Allen rolled back the years in the middle of the pitch and was the game's best player.

Sunderland at least improved after the break and Luke O'Nien's header 13 minutes from time lifted Stadium of Light spirits. Up went Anthony Patterson in stoppage time and the keeper almost scored an equaliser, superbly denied by Carl Rushworth. It would have been the most ridiculous end to another dramatic week on Wearside. No wonder Dodds sat down with a sigh.