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BBC Newcastle’s Nick Barnes on Simon Grayson’s ‘brutal’ departure & what next for Sunderland

Nick Barnes is BBC Newcastle’s match commentator and interviewer for Sunderland. We caught up with Barnesy to talk about Simon Grayson’s tenure on Wearside, Martin Bain and what the future holds for the club.

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RR: So - Simon Grayson has departed. I don't suppose that it will have shocked you, but did the nature of how quickly the club announced his departure come as a surprise?

NB: Yes it did. In all honesty I thought it a little callous - even brutal. Simon Grayson is a nice guy, whatever his ability to do this job, and to break the news in such a fashion straight after the game was short-sighted and tactless. Show him at least some respect.

RR: Martin Bain's handling of the situation was indeed ruthless but he's been fairly ruthless ever since he arrived at Sunderland. Simon Grayson spoke in his pre-Bolton press conference about the strong relationship that he believed that he had with Bain. Do you feel that, deep down, Grayson was expecting to lose his job as soon as he did?

NB: Yes he did - when I spoke to him on Friday, I think he was very aware the writing was on the wall for him. He admitted he had to win games, not just draw them.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Grayson’s replacement is Robbie Stockdale - well, in the short term, anyways
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

RR: It doesn’t appear as though the club have a replacement lined up, despite Grayson having looked out of his depth for some time and the fact that the sacking appears to have been planned ahead of the Bolton game - why do you think that is?

NB: I suspect that the club did believe Simon Grayson would turn things around but, after the defeat by Bristol City and from the manner of it, I imagine it became clear that a defeat by Bolton Wanderers would be a significant point for Grayson - and that one win in 15 is not acceptable. The club, I would have thought, will have been geared up for the possibility of not beating Bolton and Grayson himself knew and admitted on the record he had to win games to keep his job.

RR: What sort of relationship did you have with Simon Grayson - was he easy to get along with? He appears a nice enough bloke, but unfortunately ‘nice’ isn’t what these players need by the looks of it.

NB: I got on well with Grayson. It was purely a professional relationship. He didn't go out of his way to become a 'friend' of the press but he was always willing to share a joke and a little banter. However, he was also open to all questions and didn't shy away from any issues, except he was very adept at saying a lot without actually saying very much. A very likable man - I've not met anyone who has a bad word to say about him - but sadly this job just seemed to floor him.

RR: There has been a suggestion that Martin Bain’s appearance in the media last week was done with the express intention of side stepping the blame when Grayson was punted - what do you think about that?

NB: I don't think Martin Bain is looking to sidestep any blame. He is fully aware he is not popular, solely because of the job he has been brought into do. His biggest concern has be to try and get fans back on side and I do genuinely believe he wanted Grayson to turn things around, but he is a pragmatist and the situation had effectively become untenable for Grayson.

RR: Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay have taken caretaker charge of the manager’s position for the foreseeable future - do you think that there’s a chance that Stockdale could go on to manage this club permanently in the event that his caretaker spell is a success?

Robbie Stockdale is clearly seen as a very good coach and rising star. Sam Allardyce and David Moyes both thought highly of him and Grayson too. Personally, I'm not sure if at the moment he's ready for a No.1 job but there's no better learning ground than at a struggling football club and if he and McKinlay can turn things around, he won't have done his future prospects any harm at all.