We’re eleven games into our Championship campaign and it’s suffice to say that it hasn’t exactly gone according to plan so far. We currently occupy second bottom of the second tier due to an array of speculative flaws encompassing our team - ranging from an exploited lack of squad depth to baffling decisions made by our manager.
It’s far too soon to condemn us to the humiliation of a double relegation, but it’d also be naive to rule it out as an impossibility. With every game we get closer to the decisive conclusion of the campaign and draw ever closer to the revelation of our club’s rather ambiguous future - this weekend’s upcoming home fixture is no exception.
So what we can we expect from our clash with QPR? Is a turn of fortune on the cards, or do we free-fall with even greater velocity?
If we weren’t completely downtrodden by the stampede of misery that tramples us year upon year, you’d think there’d be enough reasons to assume we could turn over the Hoops when they make their trip up from East London. Casting our residual, collective negativity aside, let’s look at the positives...
For starters, Duncan Watmore is back, and he looks just as quick as he did prior to his knee injury - if his second-half cameo at Deepdale is anything to go on. The roadrunner ran rings around the Preston full-backs from the minute he was introduced, so if Grayson doesn’t want to start him this weekend, he’ll still have one hell of an impact sub.
Bringing Watmore back into the side also means we have yet another young player now getting regular first team football. The academy lads almost seem akin to a networked intelligence - the more we have on the pitch, the more clinically well-versed our link-up play seems to be. That might be something for Grayson to consider too.
For the first time this season, we might actually have strength-in-depth as far as offensive options are concerned. With Williams, McManaman, Watmore and McGeady all viable choices going forward, we could have a great balance of pace and creativity on display.
A spirited performance from Bryan Oviedo should be expected too. The Costa Rican returns to Wearside on the back of a World Cup qualification with his aforementioned native country - helping them to only their fifth ever qualification since their admission to the tournament in 1958. He’ll be absolutely buzzing, and that can only bode well for us - though, his inclusion could depend upon when he arrives back on Wearside following his trip away with his country.
Of course, things can always go wrong, and in our current situation the ramifications are pretty dire.
The draw we picked up against Preston was by no means a standalone bad result, but it’s simply not enough given where we are on the table. We’ll be cast adrift from the teams above us if we don’t start winning soon and often - so anything less than three points this weekend is only going to deepen the apathy of an already disconnected fanbase.
Grayson might have some very good options at his disposal, but whether or not he’s prepared to use them where and when they’re most effective is another question entirely.
On numerous occasions already this season the gaffer has made some baffling or generally poor decisions, such as persisting with Jason Steele over the comparably better Robbin Ruiter, playing Adam Matthews left-back when he’s solely right-footed and consistently bottling games with negative substitutions.
I suppose that if you really are a sceptic of Grayson’s managerial abilities, then the more quality we have readily available may make it seem like it’s logically less probable that the gaffer will make a bad decision - but a seasoned Sunderland fan knows better than to apply logic to his or her team.
Fact is, Sunderland supporters are absolutely desperate to see their side win, and because it has been so long since the last time we tasted a home victory at the Stadium of Light it could prove to be a pivotal moment in our season if the players are able to get three points in front of what has become an increasingly jaded, apathetic home crowd.
We’re either going to start turning our season around this weekend, or exacerbate the hopeless sinking feeling that we already have. Let’s just wait and see.