Sunderland are starting to look like a Championship club in all but name, yet it is the return of the club’s owner Ellis Short to Wearside that raises doubts about David Moyes’ future as manager.
This was the first time Short had attended a game at the Stadium of Light since August and as he watched Sunderland fail to beat Burnley alongside his wife Eve – who appeared to fall asleep in the first-half - in the director’s box, he must know where Sunderland are heading.
Short’s presence was unexpected, his renewed interest on a match day possibly unnerving for Moyes, given the Black Cats have won just one game this year, away at Crystal Palace.
Moyes has repeatedly been told, by both Short and chief executive Martin Bain, that there is no appetite to sack him, even if they are relegated.
Most supporters do not want the former Manchester United manager to be dismissed, according to polls conducted on Wearside, although there were loud boos at the final whistle here.
Club sources told Telegraph Sport on Saturday night that the view in the boardroom has not changed after this disappointment and that Moyes will not be sacked, despite Short's decision to attend the game.
Short is ruthless, desperate and prone to kneejerk dismissals at this time of year. The American sacked Martin O’Neill and Gus Poyet in March and on both occasions Sunderland stayed up. Should he do the same to Moyes? The thought must have occurred to him. After all, Sunderland are the only side in the bottom six who have not changed manager this season.
“I think if you own a football club you are entitled to come and watch them play” said an irritable Moyes, when asked about Short’s presence. It’s all good. I spoke him this morning and everything is fine.
“The players are still fighting, they are still trying. I’ve not looked at the table but we keep going. We created more than enough chances to win the game.”
Touches in the opposition box
Burnley, who have not won away in the league this season, were the better of two poor teams in the first half. Sunderland were superior in the second, but neither were clinical enough.
Burnley created just one clear chance before half time which Ashley Barnes, unmarked, scuffed wide from six yards out, and one after it, Jordan Pickford making a sharp low save to deny Sam Vokes.
Having failed to create a single clear chance in the first 45 minutes the Black Cats managed three in as many minutes at the start of the second half.
The first fell to Fabio Borini, but he could not beat Heaton. The second drew a fine save from the England goalkeeper, as Januzaj volleyed a cross from Jermain Defoe on target, before Seb Larsson smashed an effort over the bar.
Sunderland had stirred themselves but could not score, Billy Jones, heading their best opportunity wide from six yards before Heaton made an excellent save to keep out Borini again in stoppage time.