CHRIS COLEMAN admits the anger that is threatening to bubble over at Sunderland is an inevitable consequence of having an owner that has ‘lost some of his love’ for the football club.

The Black Cats travel to Bolton Wanderers tomorrow looking to improve their position in the Championship relegation zone after another difficult weekend that saw supporters vent their fury during a 2-0 home defeat to Brentford.

Hundreds of fans opted to leave the Stadium of Light before the half-time whistle as Sunderland conceded two goals in the opening half-hour, and those that remained to the end delivered a loud chorus of boos as the players left the field at full-time. One supporter directed a volley of abuse at Martin Bain as he was sitting in the directors’ box, and while Coleman feels the anger levelled at the chief executive was misplaced, he understands its origins.

Sunderland feels like a club careering towards the abyss, with its owner, Ellis Short, seemingly having thrown in the towel as he looks to sell up. The Irish-American has not attended a game all season, and while he broke his silence in the autumn to insist he remains “a fan”, his lack of investment in the last two transfer windows has undoubtedly contributed to the current mess.

While Short has closed the purse strings from his base in the United States, the club he has left behind is hurtling towards League One, and for all that Coleman is attempting to remain upbeat with 14 games still to play, he can appreciate why a blanket of negativity is currently enveloping the Stadium of Light.

“If you’re at a club like Sunderland where there is exceptional passion and a lot of supporters, they need people here who care about the club as much as them,” said the Black Cats boss, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the Macron Stadium. “Therein lies a problem.

“Obviously Ellis wants to sell the club, and they recognise that maybe his love for the club was yesterday. He wants to sell the club, that’s common knowledge, so until we get someone that wants to turn a corner with it and love it, care for it and look after it…that’s why you get the negativity.

“If the people here who do love the club don’t think you feel the same way, then there’s a problem. We know about all that, and the anger and frustration from everybody. Myself, Martin and the players have to accept that. We’ll take that on the chin. But until we have a new owner with new ideas, we are where we are.”

‘Where we are’ is 23rd position in the table, and Sunderland head into tomorrow’s relegation six-pointer having picked up just one point from their last four games. All four of those matches have seen Coleman’s side concede at least two goals before the break, and there is clearly a mental fragility that means Sunderland’s players struggle to cope when things go against them.

Tomorrow’s opponents, Bolton, are unbeaten in their last three home outings, and while Phil Parkinson’s side will kick-off just four points clear of Sunderland, their recent displays have showcased a level of spirit and resolve far in excess of anything that has been discernible in the team they will be lining up against.

Sunderland are too easy to play against at the moment, and too quick to throw in the towel when things start going wrong, failings Coleman admits will result in relegation if they are not successfully remedied in the next two-and-a-half months.

“Do the other teams at the bottom have more fight than Sunderland? At the moment, over 90 minutes, you’d have to say yes,” said the former Wales boss. “I’m not going to hide that, it’s a big concern.

“I’ve lost, fallen down and failed many times myself. I can handle that, but what really gets to me is the not competing and not standing up to the fight. That’s the one thing that keeps me awake at night, and I don’t think we’ve been doing it for the full 90 minutes in the last four games.

“If you look at the teams that are in and around us, then in the last four games, while they’ve also been losing, if you said to me that Sunderland had been showing more fight than them, then I couldn’t agree with you. We haven’t.”

Clearly, there is a fear factor about playing at the Stadium of Light, so it might be beneficial that tomorrow’s game takes place on the opposite side of the Pennines. Play as they did for the opening 45 minutes at Bristol City, or the whole of last month’s defeat at Birmingham, though, and it won’t matter where Sunderland are lining up, so given their lack of fight and application in their last few games, is it simply a case of Coleman’s players not caring sufficiently about their plight?

“The players definitely care,” he countered. “If I thought they didn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here going through it myself. If I thought we had a bunch of people who didn’t care, I wouldn’t be here. They definitely care.

“They’ve just got to park up all the negative feelings. Everybody gets nervous, but step forward and get on with your job. Show some strength. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s not that at all. They do care, they’re just nervous because the consequences are so grave.”