Sunderland boss David Moyes admits his pride has been hurt by his ongoing battle to rescue a club which has “forgotten how to win”.
The 54-year-old Scot could suffer the ignominy of taking the club down to the Sky Bet Championship after a decade in the Premier League if they lose to Bournemouth on Saturday, with fans in open revolt as a traumatic season approaches a seemingly inevitable conclusion.
Sections of the travelling support at Wednesday night’s 1-0 derby defeat by Middlesbrough turned on Moyes, owner Ellis Short and the players with relegation looming and while he has vowed to battle on, the manager concedes the club’s plight is agonising.
He said: “Oh, it hurts me, it hurts me totally. I’m certainly not smiling and laughing and enjoying myself. You want to have a winning feeling. Maybe we’ve forgotten how to do that.
“We have forgotten how to win. We have got to find that and we have got to get it back quickly.”
For all Moyes is currently bearing the brunt of mounting frustration on Wearside, he inherited many of the problems he is currently facing with toxic debts making for a bleak financial picture.
He and chief executive Martin Bain have been handed the task of implementing a long-term plan and although relegation is not part of that, Moyes insists he has the appetite to see it through and has no intention of walking away.
He said: “I’m here, I’m doing the job, I’ll be working as hard as I can preparing the players to try to win tomorrow. We need to win tomorrow.
“We don’t want to go down, but we also want to build momentum. We want to try to get a winning feeling back, we want to try to finish the season as well as we can if that’s possible. That’s my aim at the moment.
“A long-term plan is definitely needed for this football club. Unfortunately, a lot of people want to talk about it, but they don’t actually want to see that this is the way it has to happen.
“But we will put it in place. There are a lot of things done behind the scenes we are trying to improve on.”
Moyes admits that could be a painful process and is acutely aware that time is not on his side.
He said: “Sometimes change is [painful] and time in the modern life we work and live in is maybe not a thing there’s an awful lot of.”
Bournemouth were the first of only five teams to date to lose to Sunderland in the league this season when they succumbed 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium on November 5, and even completing a double could prove too little, too late.
To make matters worse Jason Denayer, Lee Cattermole, Darron Gibson and Jack Rodwell all face late fitness tests on a day of destiny.