WITH seven minutes remaining and a break in play, a Sunderland fan jumped up from his seat in the executive seats at the Stadium of Light and started shouting at chief executive Martin Bain.

“Are you happy Bain? With this rubbish?” It was easy enough to hear because by that time the remaining supporters inside the ground had gone quiet after being served up another dreadful display by the club they support.

Quite a few of his fellow fans applauded the actions, and it is understandable. How on earth can a football club which spent ten consecutive years in the Premier League, boasting a home ground capacity of 48,000, be in such a perilous position in the Championship’s relegation zone?

Bain had to be the target – after all the club’s owner, Ellis Short, is based in the United States these days and is never seen. It’s probably a blessing, because if he was then that outspoken fan is likely to have had a lot more fighting his corner.

Sunderland are in a right mess and Chris Coleman has to somehow conjure up something to restore pride, confidence and mettle into a group of players destined for League One with 14 matches remaining.

Coleman said: “They’ll go for Martin because he’s the guy that’s here, Martin’s left holding the baby if you like. That’s where they’ll vent their frustrations. Martin’s a big boy, he knows how it goes, he’ll be OK.”

The problem is not even Bain or Short can help Sunderland this season. Coleman has what he has for the remaining games and if he can’t find a way to guide the team into good form then the Black Cats will be dropping into the third tier of the English game for the first time since 1988.

The manner of Saturday’s performance against Brentford suggested that is exactly where they are heading.

On the back of all the euphoria that went with coming back from three goals down to earn a point at Bristol City a week earlier, there was a degree of optimism Sunderland could have followed that up with a much improved display on home soil.

It soon became apparent that was not going to be the case, as Brentford forced four corners inside the first five minutes and had taken the lead inside 13 minutes when Kamo Mokotjo drilled a low effort from 20 yards inside Lee Camp’s bottom left corner.

Quarter of an hour later Neal Maupay made it two when he cleverly flicked Ollie Watkins’ low centre beyond Camp, and that was exactly what a Sunderland performance lacking pretty much everything deserved.

The Sunderland fans inside the Stadium of Light, understandably half empty again, let the players know how they felt with boos and the now customary chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”.

Midfielder Jonny Williams, introduced in the second half as a substitute, said: “You can see why the fans are so frustrated when you look at the team we have. They pay to come and watch us every week and when we play well they’re the first to get behind us, so we need make we give them that.”

Regardless of what the fans or the players think it is going to be the results that matter between now and the end of the season. Sunderland, who have won just five league games all season, are likely to need play-off chasing form to avoid the unthinkable drop into League One.

Williams said: “Every game is tough in this league, you don’t play any team who give you the time to play, you have to earn that right.

“It comes down to confidence and belief and we need to find that quickly. We know we can beat Bolton on Tuesday, we should have done earlier in the season. It is a massive game, they’ll be looking at it as a winnable game just as we will be. We need to put away our chances.”

Bolton sit four points clear af Sunderland in 20th position. Given the Black Cats’ predicament, they can’t afford to leave the Macron Stadium tomorrow night wounded by a 17th defeat of a truly forgettable campaign.

However, if they turn in the sort of performance that Brentford faced on Saturday then it is impossible to imagine anything other than another loss – even if it is against a Bolton team hovering just above the relegation zone.

Sunderland might have pulled one back against the Bees when George Honeyman hit the bar before half-time – he should have done better from where he was standing – while Joel Asoro’s energy, running and occasional shots provided the one main bright spot.

On the whole it was another thoroughly depressing afternoon, with a lack of urgency to close players down and the players never looking like taking a hold of the game.

Williams, making his first appearance since November after injury, buzzed around a lot and he will be a welcome option for Coleman to turn to in the remaining weeks of the season – if he can stay fit.

The creative Wales international said: “It does take time. When Chris came in at Wales it took time but we’re running out of that here. On the whole we’ve been better defensively since he came in but you can’t account for individual errors and we’ve made so many this season, I think that is why we are where we are.

“It has cost us so many points. Chris still believes in us and we have to believe in ourselves.

“I was pleased to be back. On the whole I felt good, I enjoy playing with these players and we did better in the second half. On another day we could have scored a couple. I’m just hoping to play a lot of games, I’m ready for it and hopefully am done with the bad luck I’ve had this season.”

But what Sunderland have to somehow engineer is a more positive start to matches, knowing that they have fallen behind in the majority of games since Coleman took over. In fact on the four occasions they have taken the lead they have actually ended up winning.

Williams said: “We leave ourselves with a mountain to climb by going one, two goals down and then we have to chase the game.

“That’s when we start to play, rather than putting the other team on the back foot straight away.

“A lot of teams have come to us and done well.

“Brentford are a decent side and they have been a few years in this league.

“Every team comes here and plays without fear and we have to stop that. They’re enjoying playing here and we need to make it a lot harder for them.”