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Michael Graham: FIVE pieces of advice for the next manager of Sunderland

Sunderland’s next manager needs to come into the job with his eyes wide open - here are five pieces of advice for the man who is fortunate enough to take over from Simon Grayson.

Sunderland fans

1. Coach Defending

This Sunderland squad isn't the best any of us have ever seen by a long way, but it's certainly got goals in it.

Problem is, the defending on show has meant we have needed to score four goals to beat likes of Brentford and Bolton and three to best teams like Preston and Bristol City. That, frankly, is a disgrace.

And it's an even bigger disgrace that Simon Grayson was apparently unable to recognise that. I'd have had a lot more sympathy for him if at least once or twice he tried to set up with a more compact system or similar solution, rather than just changing his back four every week.

It's too easy to just pin it all on defenders but, the fact is, defenders don't defend, teams do, and Sunderland don't know how to. That's down to the coaching, or lack of.

Any manager worth his salt will take one look at the individual attacking quality in this squad and start putting the players through so many defensive drills they can't even walk through a supermarket without closing off empty space.


2. Show Some Stones

For all Grayson was a disaster, you do always wonder just how hard senior figures in the dressing room made it for him.

It's hard to really know without being involved, but Lamine Kone, for example, has been taking the club for a ride for over a year now - yet has been given the captaincy on occasion by Grayson.

Kone’s had us by the throat for over a year now.

That's just not good enough. It's not strong enough. The new manager needs to be willing to stand up to these characters and absolutely nail them when required. If that means banishing them to the reserves or whatever, then so be it.


3. Treat Fans With Respect

You'd have to say, without any room for ambiguity whatsoever, that the last two Sunderland managers have showered fans with a near constant stream of shamelessly spouted bullshit.

Moyes appeared to have a genuine passion for alienating fans, and Grayson, you'd have to say, ended up following suit.

He told us we were dominant in games when we all saw that we weren't. He told us we were unlucky after a 5-2 defeat to Ipswich. He told us we were good at defending set-pieces when it was painfully obvious we weren't.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League
David Moyes appeared to have a genuine passion for alienating fans
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The Jason Steele debacle summed it all up best of all. From "Jason can be happy with his performance", to "Jason is our best goalkeeper right now", to dropping Jason in the space of about a week.

Of course, we all knew the truth, as did Grayson considering he dropped Steele, but that didn't stop him from insulting our intelligence by asking us to buy his cheap bullshit and lap it up.


4. Know Your Crowd

I'm a bit sick of Sunderland fans always being somehow blamed for managers failing to be honest.

Apparently we are not patient enough. Apparently we have to high expectations. Apparently we are too eager to get on players' backs and make it hard for the poor precious little lambs, which in turn makes it hard for a manager.

Whoever takes the job on next has to be very clear about what he is walking into.

Fans have ran out of patience - legitimately. We've seen nothing but rubbish for months. We've barely seen our team leading at home for months, never mind winning. We are fed up and have every right to be.

It's up to the club and team to change that and lift us, not vice-versa. Give us something to cheer about and we'll respond. But, frankly, our support has been abused for so long now that we've literally nothing more to give until things change on the pitch. The reserves, of which there were greater than any other club probably on the planet, of hope and optimism and joviality have been drained dry.

Any new manager coming here had better understand that because that's just how it is until the club starts giving something back.


5. Assume The Worst

Making and trusting simple assumptions is, I suspect, the biggest common mistake new managers have made at Sunderland.

They probably come in assuming a basic level of standards exist at the club that probably don't.

They assume that all they have to do is deal with problems on the pitch.

They assume the absolute worst case scenario is having to start from scratch.

Those assumptions have stumped them before they've even taken a first breath in the job.

No, assume you're landing right in the middle of a burning building and before you can even think about rebuilding it you have to deal with the raging blaze around you.

Assume the worst, because it's probably what you're going to find when reality kicks in.