Simon Grayson pulled no punches in his post-match assessment of Sunderland’s 3-0 defeat at St Johnstone.
The Black Cats have undergone an intense fitness-building regime since returning to training, but while the manager acknowledged their workload he warned they must be better and show more desire if they’re to be successful.
Steven MacLean opened the scoring after the home side were awarded an indirect free-kick just six yards from goal, and the Saints continued their ascendancy soon after as David Wotherspoon’s quickfire double completed a frenetic and frustrating six-minute spell.
A host of second-half substitutes saw a number of youngsters inject fresh desire and vigour into Sunderland’s play and for that Grayson awarded praise, but he warned his players that failure to work hard without the ball at any level simply isn’t good enough.
“It was hugely disappointing to lose three early goals like we did and we shouldn’t be doing that.
“It’s been coming I think over the last few games when we’ve been too easy to play against.”
He continued: “If you break the game down I thought we were lively in the first 10-15 minutes and we were a threat going forward, but then we had a crazy seven minutes.
“We conceded a goal and that happens but you then have to make sure you don’t concede another and ultimately another one after that because it gives you a mountain to climb, so it’s disappointing and the attitude wasn’t what I wanted at times.
“The only excuse I’ll give to the players is that they’ve had a tough week with training so fatigue may have played a part, but that’s still no excuse because they have to have a desire to be better and stop the opposition from playing.
“There’s good players here on the ball and that’s not a problem, but it’s what we do without it that will be the problem throughout the season if we’re not careful.
“It’s no coincidence that when the young lads came on they had a desire and a hunger to run around and make an impact on the game – if don't do that and work hard at any level of football anybody could play.
“It’s an ingredient the players have to have and the mindset has to change as we’ve been speaking about over the last couple of weeks, and if they don’t want to do it one or two players can go elsewhere.”