In truth, few of us are truly blessed with an articulate turn of phrase and skills in oration, especially when we’re under pressure, but Sunderland boss Simon Grayson’s increasingly alarming and bizarre utterings took a fresh twist following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with QPR.
With his side relying on another moment of magic from Aiden McGeady to fashion a point from game number 12 of the Championship campaign, the Black Cats were generally disjointed against what was ultimately a poor visiting side yesterday.
And whilst his assessment that Sunderland are making “small steps” of improvement each week may just about pass an inquisitive eye, Grayson’s continued odd comments about relegation and his side’s abilities to put his methods into practice merit further attention.
Because no manager of this Sunderland side ought to be talking in October about a battle to avoid the drop into League One never mind the actual evidence laid out in front of him on the pitch.
Grayson’s increasingly muddled, mixed-up attempts at speaking to the public are alarming coming so soon after he offended sections of the Wearside support with his remarks about those who didn’t travel to Ipswich before he tried to backtrack last week.
So on the subject of relegation, this uttering is odd at best and a bid for career suicide at worst as the Black Cats boss was asked at what point Sunderland’s league position becomes a major concern:
The position will only become a worry when you’re still in it and it’s mathematically impossible to catch the teams above you.
In truth that sentence doesn’t even make sense but appears to be a resignation that Sunderland will spend most of this season in the bottom three battling to avoid the arithmetical certainty that will usher in a drop to the third-tier. That’s in mid-October, some six months before teams traditionally face the fight to avoid “mathematical” relegation.
Either that or Grayson considers the fact his side are now firmly entrenched in the Championship relegation zone is of little concern. But then that’s the issue here, nothing he says is making sense and that might not matter so much if the team taking to the pitch didn’t look as jumbled as his words.
Head-scratching aside, that utterance may be either disturbing or gobbledygook depending on your interpretation of it, but this comment about the goal conceded to QPR yesterday ought to raise a wry smile if nothing else:
..we get done on a set-piece which isn’t really like us and that knocked us back a bit.
That’ll be a Sunderland side who have conceded more goals direct from set-pieces than over half of the rest of the Championship and in their last three games alone, have been done by a soft free-kick at Preston a fortnight ago, allowed Ipswich to score from a corner days before that and conceded a goal against a Cardiff side who took just two touches off a punt from the goalkeeper to score.
So conceding from dead-balls is actually exactly ‘like’ Sunderland. And the manager’s apparent surprise at conceding a goal from a set-piece suggests defending them doesn’t figure highly in his training sessions.
But it’s this clap-trap that follows which Sunderland supporters are fed up of hearing - that the home crowd’s apparent angst is nothing to do with his own tactical ineptitude or inability of his players to perform basic moves, and is in reality based on a simmering frustration of what has gone before.
When asked about the Stadium of Light crowd growing tetchy as Sunderland’s players appeared unable to pass or control a football during an alarming sequence in the second-half, Grayson insisted the fed up nature of the home support is nothing to do with him:
I understand the supporter’s views, and it’s not a reflection of the individuals or the team today. It’s more about everything that has happened over the last few years.
And it’s that continual hiding behind the past which rankles as the present gets worse by the week. The reason the Wearside faithful grew restless watching the side Simon Grayson coaches, in part recruited and then selected to face a poor QPR side on Saturday, is purely because those 11 players in a red-and-white appeared to not have a clue what they were doing for a good chunk of the game.
And that simply is not acceptable Mr Grayson.