Many Sunderland fans have expressed notions of positivity following our draw away at Preston at the weekend, but for me, feeling this way is nothing more than a product of the appalling results that fans have suffered from witnessing in recent times.
In my opinion, the performance at Deepdale was by no means acceptable and Simon Grayson must once again accept his share of the blame for why we threw away our early lead in such a quick fashion at the start of the second half.
Don’t get me wrong, not losing the game is definitely a positive that we can take from the performance, but it’s fair to say that it took some individual brilliance from Aiden McGeady to save us from another soul-destroying defeat.
Despite leading 1-0 we came out for the second-half and allowed Preston to dictate the tempo and pace of the play by sitting too deep. Conceding two goals in a matter of minutes is just unacceptable in my eyes and shows up the mental frailty of this side. Granted, the addition of John O’Shea to our defence helped us to appear semi-solid but we still conceded two goals, and we still haven’t kept a clean sheet all season.
It’s worth noting that Preston had some of their better players missing in midfield, which is perhaps why Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong looked as competent and dominant as they did. You have to give credit to the pair for putting in decent performances, but it has to continue as we go forward. Despite being well-stocked in midfield it would seem that Simon Grayson is stuck on playing a central two - and against more energetic sides we’ve seen Cattermole struggle with the pace of the game, perhaps playing a role he’s not entirely suited to.
Sunderland fans tend to appreciate hard work, graft, grit and determination, but the love of the 'harder' aspects of the beautiful game can sometimes cause fans to overlook more subtle characteristics, such as movement, spacial awareness and marking. We're all guilty of it, including us Roker Reporters.
Cattermole improved, but only on the surface. His work rate returned to normal and he showed increased fight and heart and desire. However, the technical side of his game remained poor. Though his all-round effort was good, Cattermole lost his man for the second Preston goal and his passing ability - once again - flattered to deceive.
I can’t help but feel that despite Cattermole’s improved showing, Grayson must recognise the twenty-nine year old’s flaws and act accordingly. The former Middlesbrough captain needs a technical midfielder with passing ability and a third partner with positional awareness alongside in order to thrive. Perhaps the best version of Cattermole we saw was when Sam Allardyce surrounded him with better players, allowing him to focus on what he’s good at - patrolling the area in front of the defence winning back the ball in dangerous areas.
He struggles to play in a two in the centre. Grayson has tried the playing two central midfielders in a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1 and a 5-4-1 formation. It's time for a midfield three.
Maybe Sunderland’s awful recent performances have conditioned me in to being a complete cynic but the result against Preston, despite a few minor improvements, failed to impress me in the way that is seems to have satisfied some of my fellow supporters.
Though optimism levels seem to have increased, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the momentum we have coming out of the Preston game can remain intact after the international break, when we play Queens Park Rangers. I remain unconvinced that Grayson can turn things around - I just hope he can prove me, a self-confessed cynic, wrong.
What do you think of what James has had to say? Leave us a comment below.