It's been a tough start to the new season for Sunderland and Dick Advocaat; one that is showing worrying parallels to their near-miss with relegation just a few months back.
The Black Cats were manhandled by Manchester City in the Capital One Cup last night, losing by four goals to one. And when coupled with their six-game streak without a win in the Premier League, things look decidedly grim.
It's a situation that inevitably brings about plenty of critique from fans and pundits alike, but former Sunderland man Michael Gray has given his backing to Advocaat over what he feels is a case of the manager's players being worried to perform.
As reported by talkSPORT, the Sunderland native said: "I used to think it was the manager's fault but I can’t put it down to Dick Advocaat because I think he is the right man.
"For some reason, it frightens the players to play at the Stadium of Light."
His former team currently sit bottom of the Premier League with just two points from six games, having conceded more goals than any other team in the division.
And unfortunately for Advocaat, the job isn't likely to get any easier soon. His team travel to Old Trafford this weekend to take on second-placed Manchester United, while anything less than a win will keep Sunderland confined to the relegation zone for another week.