It’s hard to ascertain the true reasons as to why Sunderland’s prospective takeover collapsed. Maybe it was an undying commitment to making sure we never have a smooth pre-season, regardless of circumstance. Perhaps when Martin Bain reportedly flew to Florida to meet Derek McInnes, the plane went missing in some kind of Lost style scenario and the proposed sale was all one big cover up until Bain was found washed up, having conversations with a volleyball. Either way, we finally have someone in charge and Sunderland can finally start preparing for their latest foray into the Championship.
The man charged with the task of restoring Sunderland’s credibility is, as we now know, former Preston North End boss Simon Grayson. In a whirlwind day that saw takeover bids quashed and talks opening up with Grayson, his arrival was confirmed just a few hours later, on a three year deal. After doing so little for so long, Sunderland seemed to fit a months worth of business into one day. It resembled a hapless parent on Christmas Eve, who hasn’t bought their kids any presents yet and just settles for what ever they find on the bare shelves of Toys R Us - which wont be too dissimilar to our transfer policy.
So that’s where we are. Most supporters wanted new owners and we’re still stuck with Ellis Short. Simon Grayson was no one’s first choice when David Moyes departed but he’ll be the man in the dugout when Derby County visit the Stadium of Light in just over one months time. Hardly pulse racing stuff, admittedly, but despite the perceived lack of glamour, Grayson deserves the initial backing of every single fan.
The fact that our new gaffer was so keen to come to a club in such a mess makes him instantly endearing. With the best two players of last season sold, mounting debt that means there’s little-to-no transfer budget and a squad so light on numbers it looks like a tribute act to a professional football club, there’s hardly going to be an avalanche of applications. In spite of this however, Grayson has taken the job and is viewing it as a tremendous challenge and after the low levels of enthusiasm we saw from his predecessor, that’s actually quite refreshing.
The biggest bugbear I had with David Moyes was how he clearly thought Sunderland was beneath him and it was a step down in his career. On first impressions, you get a totally different vibe from the man taking over from him. Whilst Moyes spoke of how he didn’t take the job before because he didn’t think he could turn Sunderland around, Grayson used his first interview to talk about “a great opportunity.” Yes, there were the usual soundbites that are to be expected from a cushy, in house, interview but the enthusiasm for the gig seemed genuine.
Crucially, that enthusiasm has to remain. We all know that Grayson knows the Championship inside out having managed Preston and Leeds United and he’s very much a “safe pair of hands.” There’ll be difficult periods, mainly caused by issues that were prevalent long before his arrival, but if that kind of enthusiasm and desire to succeed remains he’ll be given a lot of grace by supporters - provided there is evidence that the team is building towards something.
Those issues with the hierarchy shouldn’t be ignored though, as any success Simon Grayson has will almost be in spite of them. The dithering involved in the on again/off again takeovers is one of the main reasons he will start life on Wearside on the back foot and any success will feel like a miracle. So Ellis Short, Martin Bain and co. must do better, as the fumbling around of the last month has only served to embarrass everyone associated with SAFC. There may be very good reasons as to why the club wasn’t sold to the mysterious German consortium but to come out and say that “it wouldn’t be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC” is hard to believe when the discussions have gone on for so long. Surely that’s the kind of thing you find out, when talks first start?
We have to move on from that particular episode but that doesn’t mean all of our problems have been washed away.
Let’s all get behind Simon Grayson, but keep putting the pressure on those above him because if the club finally becomes a well ran one he may go beyond most of our expectations.