After our sorry 5-2 defeat to Ipswich last week one of my fellow Roker Reporters, James Copley, wrote in an article stating that ‘for me it now feels like the Sunderland job is a step too far for the Yorkshireman.’ I read the piece, and agreed with a lot of what James had to say, but my underlying feeling was that he - like many fans - are jumping the gun too early in regards to Simon Grayson and his time thus far at the club.
When the former Preston boss was appointed as Sunderland manager on the 29th of June he had just 36 days to oversee our pre-season programme and re-shape his squad in time for our return back to the second tier of English football. In total, he lost eleven first team players due to the expiration of contracts, loans elsewhere and permanent transfers. Grayson then brought in seven new players before our opening day draw with Derby, for a combined amount totalling less than two million pounds. By the end of the window, Sunderland added a further three players - two free transfers and a loan - to their depleted squad.
Like most relegated clubs, Sunderland had mass changes in almost every department to deal with upon our descent down the footballing pyramid.
It would be unfair to assume that Grayson could turn everything around here in just a matter of weeks. The fact we spent a paltry sum of money in order to overhaul an already fractured playing squad shows just how he had to operate over the summer with one hand tied behind his back.
Taking all of this into consideration, is it fair to be calling for the manager’s head just two months into the campaign? We are not even a quarter of the way through the season. Can we really judge the manager as a whole to this point?
I too have scratched my head when attempting to understand some of Grayson’s tactical decisions so far this season. Why did he play three right backs at Everton, instead of giving a young centre-half a game? Why did we sit back after comfortably taking the lead against Hull? Should Lee Cattermole be starting so much when his form has been as poor as it has been recently? There are many more questions which we fans have asked of Grayson so far this season, and justifiably so.
Tactically, the Sunderland manager has been underwhelming so far - I agree.
But in Grayson's defence, there have been many games this season where plain bad luck has came into play and we’ve maybe not got the outcome that we’ve deserved as a result. Had Lewis Grabban’s second half effort against Derby not hit the post and instead went in we’d have most certainly started the season with three points on board. What if Lamine Kone didn't accidentally deflect the ball past Robbin Ruiter for Hull's equaliser in our draw on Humberside the other week? What if the referee at Preston had reprimanded their goalkeeper for his blatant handball 20 yards outside of his box? Whilst we can’t just blame bad luck for our turbulent start to the season, it’s fair to say we’ve not really had the rub of the green in recent times.
I understand that bad luck happens, and I understand that the football has at times been absolutely dreadful, but at the eleven-game mark of the season - can we really say that we have given Grayson enough time to mould Sunderland in the shape which he wants it to be? For all that anyone says about him as a manager, his track record is decent at this level.
It’s understandable that people are annoyed at the way the club is being ran, but Simon Grayson is not the one responsible for our lack of summer spending. He is not responsible for the failings of the club over the last five years. He may not be the answer long term - but boy does he deserve more than 11 games to prove himself.
The next six games we play will give us a far greater reflection of what to expect from the Sunderland manager. QPR, Bristol City, Bolton and Millwall travel to the Stadium of Light - four games against sides expected to be towards the bottom of the division. If Grayson cannot turn Sunderland’s faltering form around in those games, then maybe then will be the time to question his position. But, right now, he requires a little more patience.
Do you agree with what Connor has had to say? Leave us a comment below.