FORMER Sunderland midfielder Liam Noble has launched a withering attack on his former employers, branding them a "sh*t club with sh*t fans".

Noble spent more than three seasons on the Black Cats' books, having graduated from the club's academy into the reserves squad in 2009.

He became a regular at reserve-team level, but was unable to break into Sunderland's first team and joined Carlisle United on loan in the second half of last season.

The Cramlington-born 20-year-old rejoined the Cumbrians on loan at the start of the current campaign, and joined the club on a permanent basis after he was released from Sunderland in January.

He has angered the Black Cats supporters with a series of increasingly provocative postings on his Twitter account, culminating in a series of controversial comments yesterday.

Noble tweeted: "Sunderland was great until I signed a pro contract. Only one club gave me a shot at pro football. Many thanks to everyone at Carlisle United. Great club great fans."

He later added: "Not bitter at all about leaving Sunderland! Sh*t club sh*t fans! Hope to see you's soon. Maybe give us a derby next year. Haha."

Sunderland officials are aware of Noble's comments, but have opted not to respond to them in a formal capacity.

However, it is understood that Carlisle's hierarchy are far from impressed with his actions and are expected to impose internal disciplinary sanctions later this week.

Meanwhile, John O'Shea has admitted Sunderland's season is beginning to peter out following successive goalless draws with Wolves and Aston Villa.

The Black Cats were as high as eighth three weeks ago, yet they now find themselves back in the bottom half of the table in 11th position.

In theory they could still finish anywhere between seventh and 15th, but the primary target is to improve on last season's 10th-placed finish.

With games against Bolton and Fulham preceding the final-day encounter with Manchester United, a top-half finish is a realistic objective, but O'Shea admits there will have to be an improvement on the last two performances if it is to become a reality.

"We're letting the season tail off a little bit after going on a fantastic run and we've got to make sure we finish off as strong as we can," said the Republic of Ireland international.

"It's an unforgiving league. You can be in eighth or ninth and two weeks later you could be in 14th. You want to make sure you're in that top half of the table.

"When you're at home to Wolves and away to Villa and you've only picked up two points, you're hugely disappointed at dropping four.

"Those four points could be the ones to keep us pushing towards that top eight or nine positions in the league."

A lack of goals has been Sunderland's major problem as they have now gone more than seven hours without scoring, but O'Shea feels with the chances the side are creating, an end to the barren run is just around the corner.

"You never know, someone could be on the end of a hiding if we start taking our chances and finishing teams off," he said.

"Bolton will know they'll be in for a tough game next weekend and won't get anything easy up at the Stadium of Light.

"We knew Villa were under a lot of pressure due to their position in the league and missing a lot of their important players. Even on Saturday, two of their best players went off injured as well.

"We were hoping to capitalise on that situation. For large parts of the game, we were thinking, 'How have we not scored?'

"Credit to Villa, they caused us a few problems as well, but I thought we had the better chances."