Sunderland vintage among EPL's worst
Struggling Sunderland look destined for the drop
Say what you want about Sam Allardyce - and plenty of people have said plenty of things about the disgraced former England boss in recent weeks - but I still cannot fathom how he managed to keep Sunderland in the Premier League last season.
Sorry Black Cats fans, but I would have to rank the current side alongside Derby County (2007/08), QPR (2012/13) and, of course, Sunderland's own 2005/06 vintage in terms of the Premier League's worst teams.
A decade ago, Roy Keane dragged the club from the foot of the Championship to the middle of the Premier League table within two exhilarating seasons.
It was a remarkable achievement for a fledgling manager.
Keane had laid the necessary foundations to establish Sunderland as a team that would challenge for a top- half finish on a regular basis.
However, since returning to the Premier League in 2007, the club have finished 15th, 16th, 13th, 10th, 13th, 17th, 14th, 16th and 17th.
Michael Bowers, who writes the popular Roker Report blog on SB Nation, says: "It's simply a disgrace that we are still battling to avoid relegation and I'm fed up.
"A small part of me would rather be in the Championship winning games, rebuilding for the future."
Pining for relegation?
Such a statement from a lifelong fan demonstrates the desperation among the Black Cats faithful.
So who's to blame for the malaise at Sunderland?
In the modern era, when football management has the security of a shark cage made from silk, you would expect a reasonable degree of chopping and changing in the Sunderland dugout.
But 15 managers in 14 years?
No wonder there's such instability at the club.
One of those 15 managers, Real Betis boss Gus Poyet, believes that the Wearsiders have never been able to shake off the tag of a "selling club".
"There's something inside Sunderland, something at its very core. It makes it difficult to fulfil its potential," Poyet told The Guardian.
"A player has a good season and he's sold.
"(But) it makes no difference if they give you £20m for him - £20m doesn't replace him and doesn't solve anything.
"Now David Moyes is there and he has what's been left (for) him by previous coaches, and you can't go on like that.
"You just can't. It's impossible.
"Because when you start from zero every year - every year - you stay at zero."
Another major problem facing Sunderland's owners is that the city isn't considered a desirable place to live - it's a city that is still struggling to bounce back from the demise of its core manufacturing industry.
A report last year said that it's one of the four worst places to live in the UK, based on a variety of factors including economic performance and quality of life.
Despite the lure of hefty wage packets, it's difficult to persuade players to move to the club.
In the off-season, Sunderland were also hugely hampered by the FA taking so much time before belatedly making an approach for Allardyce.
As a consequence, his successor, David Moyes, was given little time to prepare a team for the rigours of a Premier League campaign.
The departure of loan stars DeAndre Yedlin and Yann M'Vila, plus the continued reports linking stand-out defender Lamine Kone with a move, were also hugely unhelpful.
However, whichever way you dress it up, a return of just two points from a possible 27 is unacceptable.
And, with confidence low, the team have also developed an unwelcome habit of shooting themselves in the foot.
Last weekend, the Black Cats could have claimed their first win of the campaign against fellow strugglers West Ham had they shown more ambition.
With the match finely poised in the second half, there was a massive opportunity for Moyes' men to go for the jugular against a team also short on confidence.
Instead, they retreated to try and protect a point - Winston Reid's injury-time winner was cruel, but entirely predictable.
This is the 10th consecutive season that Sunderland have spent in the Premier League, which suggests that the Black Cats have already used up their nine lives.
Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at ELEVEN SPORTS NETWORK. Join Richard and his studio guests for ELEVEN's live coverage of the Premier League, which includes tomorrow's clash between Sunderland and Arsenal from 7pm, as well as the Sunday showdowns between Everton and West Ham (9pm), and Chelsea's trip to Southampton (11.30pm). For more details visit www.elevensports.sg