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Glen Williams For Mailonline

Dispirited and dejected Sunderland fans walked out of the Stadium of Light as Championship high-fliers Aston Villa heaped more misery on Chris Coleman’s side with a thumping defeat.

The Black Cats have now lost 18 Championship games this season and sit rock bottom, staring in the face of consecutive relegations following their demotion from the Premier League last season.

And the insidious atmosphere at the north-east club appeared to come to a head on Tuesday night as Steve Bruce’s men ran riot in their 3-0 win at the Stadium of Light.

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The Stadium of Light emptied during the dying minutes of Sunderland’s defeat by Aston Villa

The stronghold of Villa fans (in the top tier) remained until the end to witness the 3-0 win 

The stronghold of Villa fans (in the top tier) remained until the end to witness the 3-0 win 

The stronghold of Villa fans (in the top tier) remained until the end to witness the 3-0 win 

Sunderland, who are bottom, were subjected to their 18th Championship loss of the season

Sunderland, who are bottom, were subjected to their 18th Championship loss of the season

Sunderland, who are bottom, were subjected to their 18th Championship loss of the season

Official figures recorded an attendance of 26,081 for Tuesday’s fixture, but footage emerged of what appeared to be just a mere fraction of that as the game ticked over into stoppage time. 

It’s not only the results on the pitch which have infuriated the Sunderland faithful, with owner Ellis Short taking much of the flack as well as a lack of funds and overpaid players – Jack Rodwell could be set to earn £3.6million in League One next year.

Chris Coleman arrived in November full of energy and ambition, but as time has progressed even he has started to take aim at issues behind the scenes. 

But with 10 games left in their season, supporters will hope for a little more fight in order to convince them to stay until the end of matches – otherwise League One football surely does beckon.

They will hope that begins at Loftus Road on Saturday where they will face QPR.

Black Cats were relegated from the Premier League last year

Black Cats were relegated from the Premier League last year

They now sit bottom of the Championship

They now sit bottom of the Championship

Black Cats relegated from Premier League in 2017 (L) and now sit bottom of Championship (R)

OUR MAN AT THE GROUND

By Craig Hope, North-East football correspondent

I was asked recently on a radio show what was the most enjoyable match I had ever covered.

Being diplomatic (as North-East reporter covering three clubs) I went for Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 win over Italy at Euro 2016.

But right up there in the top two has to be Sunderland versus Chelsea. The year? 2016. For it was not that long ago that a sell-out Stadium of Light made a noise I have not heard inside a football ground before or since.

Sam Allardyce’s side were 3-2 winners thanks to two goals inside three, crazy second-half minutes. It was an incredible experience to be sat amongst the intensity of that euphoria, amplified by the relief of them climbing out of the bottom three with two matches of the season to play. They survived and, under Allardyce, there was hope for the future.

But now, less than two years on, we have arrived at this; empty seats and empty hearts. For as I noted in my report from Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat by Aston Villa, apathy reigns on Wearside right now. Supporters do not even hang around to boo the team anymore.

There is a soulless feel to a once-vibrant stadium, a sad acceptance of decline. The official attendance was recorded at around 28,000, a figure at least 8,000 too high on the evidence of the naked eye.

Come the end, you would be lucky if 5,000 remained. They still care, of course they do, but what is the point in wasting energy on a lost cause? That is the overriding feeling you get from Sunderland supporters right now – why bother?

The pictures from Tuesday night lay bare the sorry state of the football club under Ellis Short. The owner must go for supporters to come back, and only then will pride and passion dethrone apathy. 

Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole looks dejected after the final whistle on Tuesday

Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole looks dejected after the final whistle on Tuesday

Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole looks dejected after the final whistle on Tuesday

Boss Chris Coleman was recruited in November but has been unable to stop the rot

Boss Chris Coleman was recruited in November but has been unable to stop the rot

He has also alluded to problems behind the scenes of late

He has also alluded to problems behind the scenes of late

Boss Chris Coleman was recruited in November but has been unable to stop the rot

–Credit: Sport | Mail Online