Gus POYET has insisted he still has the support of the players and control of the dressing room in a last-ditch attempt to save his job as Sunderland manager following the diabolical home defeat by Aston Villa.
Poyet looks set to survive Saturday's mauling, at least until the summer when Sunderland could look to appoint Sam Allardyce - mainly because Black Cats owner Ellis Short is not convinced there is a manager immediately available who could come in with nine games remaining in the campaign and do a better job.
The anger and disbelief that followed Sunderland's thrashing at the hands of Villa has been replaced by fear and self-loathing.
Sunderland havehad six managers in seven years, but only under Steve Bruce in 2011 have they not been threatened by relegation at this stage of the season.
The club's problems have never been confined to the dugout and Short made it clear when Poyet was handed a new contract last summer, after somehow avoiding relegation in the last month of the campaign, that he wanted to give the Uruguayan time to implement long-term strategies rather than focus on the usual fire-fighting.
Sunderland's form - they have won just one league game since Christmas Day and just two at home all season - had caused alarm, but the manner of the defeat to Villa has tested Short's resolve like nothing before. Burnley's shock 1-0 win over Manchester City has turned a four-point buffer between themselves and the bottom three into a slim one-point advantage that offers the Black Cats about as much protection as an umbrella in a hurricane.
In contrast, Poyet's former Tottenham team-mate, Tim Sherwood, has now led Aston Villa to three successive wins, having seen Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor score two goals each before half-time on Wearside.(© Daily Telegraph, London)