What is going wrong at Sunderland, and how much worse could it get?
Almost one year ago, Sunderland sacked manager Steve Bruce, making him the annual loser of the Premier League's 'sack race' - Much to the delight of fans who wanted rid of the boyhood Newcastle supporter.
He was replaced by Martin O'Neill, who promptly wowed fans around the league by turning Sunderland into the division's most exciting team. In the 9 games the Black Cats played after he took over; no team amassed more points.
Having quickly made an impression, the team's form trailed off towards the end of the season, and a top 10 finish which looked very achievable by February proved out of reach, eventually ending up in 13th place.
While they managed to hang onto star man Stephane Sessegnon over the summer, big name signings were not forthcoming, until the late acquisitions of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher.
Fletcher settled instantly, but since his initial five goals in his first four games - He has netted just one in seven.
However a statistic far more alarming is the headline one, three wins in 26 Premier League matches stretching the back-end of last season and the start of this one.
This season they have won just two games in the division, a 1-0 win at home to Wigan and a 3-1 away win at Fulham. So where is it all heading?
There were reports at the weekend that Martin O'Neill had even offered his resignation in the wake of the weekend's 4-2 home loss to West Brom, but Sunderland have quickly moved to deny these.
We'd certainly hope there was no foundation to the rumours, but it certainly illustrates how quickly the O'Neill revolution has unravelled on Wearside that such suggestions even appear fathomable.
Losing and conceding four at home to West Brom may seem galling, but there are several excuses to take in this instance. Firstly, the first goal from Mignolet's mistake was simply a freak occurence, and is unlikely to replicate itself.
Thew fourth goal too only was scored because Sunderland were pushing everybody forward in search of an injury-time equaliser. A late header from Carlos Cuellar almost made it 3-3 even.
And then it must be remembered that West Brom are very much in form, under the management of a new boss and are very much in their honeymoon period- Just like Sunderland were after O'Neill arrived. When you are out of form and face a side in their stride, its tough to pull out a result.
But such excuses can't be wheeled out on a regular basis, Sunderland need results, and the upcoming fixture against a potentially Redknapp inspired QPR is developing into a must-win.
When one of our writers suggested Sunderland in connection with the dreaded R word back in September, fans were outraged, and with the talent in their squad it is fair to see why.
And right now, you would not really think the Black Cats belong among the relegation contenders, indeed they should be pushing the top half- Any side which can go to Craven Cottage and come away with three points are well capable.
Sunderland's 16th position is tempered by the fact they have a game in hand, against Reading, if the game was played tomorrow and Sunderland won, they would be in 13th- Exactly the place they finished last season, and just one point behind Liverpool.
So while their form of just two wins this season is poor, fans should remain positive, and if the manager really is having self-doubts, it is imperative that he doesn't.
Sunderland have a good set up, several talented players, and owner Ellis Short is one of the more generous in the league.
Simply, the past run has been the very opposite of Sunderland's opening under O'Neill, and now is the time for that to change. It can go one of two ways, it can continue to get worse, or they can start rising up the table.
For if they win their game in hand, they will be one point above rivals Newcastle; and that will put a smile on every Sunderland fans' face - and suddenly everything won't seem so bad.
What do you make of Sunderland's form and prospects for the season ahead?
image: © vagueonthehow