It was a little bit about concentration, but also desire and hunger. That’s what it’s all about.
There’s certain players that are buying into the ideas and certain players that aren’t and if players are not willing to work hard for this shirt they can go somewhere else.
As uncomfortable as the defeat to St. Johnstone was, the words of Simon Grayson following the pre-season defeat were refreshing to hear. Although the game was meaningless, the manner in which the team collapsed was a sight we have come to see way, way too often and there were hints that the team still has the poison that has haunted previous seasons circulating in it’s veins.
Although it wasn’t the only lesson we can take from Saturday’s loss, in hindsight perhaps a defeat in this manner in pre-season is what Grayson and his backroom staff needed with over a month of the transfer window left.
Here’s some conclusions from St Johnstone 3 vs Sunderland 0.
We really need to sell Lamine Kone
Big Lamine is a very, very good centre half on his day. This time last year I wrote an article about how important keeping the Ivorian at the club was; that we should not sell him at any cost. I attested to the statistical analysis that without him, we would have been relegated - even under Big Sam.
Fast forward a year and the only ‘statistic’ that really matters is written all over his face and has been since last August; he doesnt want to be here.
The transfer requests, the random ‘injuries’ and the half-arsed attempts to defend last season are still fresh in everyone's minds and last term it was quite obvious David Moyes had issues with Kone's attitude.
Saturday’s collapse may have only been in pre-season, but when those Grayson quotes about attitude and application emerged in the immediate aftermath, the first player that came to mind was Lamine Kone - and his performance on Saturday had all the hallmarks of the uninterested cry baby many have come to loathe.
The Ivorian switched off, wasn’t comminicating all game and certainly didn’t make any effort to exert himself.
It may merely indicate he's set to depart but we need players at Sunderland who want to grow with this fantastic club and this honest, open and upfront new manager. Kone is a man off, he’s not interested and has his head in the clouds.
If he thinks he's still destined to play for clubs in the Premier League, let him go; they’ll soon realise how horribly average he really is on days like yesterday.
Making Vito our number one is a risk...
Maybe our fanbase is clouded by his League Cup semi-final heroics, maybe with the emergence of Jordan Pickford, we had forgotten what bad goalkeeping looked like - either way Vito gets away with a lot, despite the amount of mistakes that the Italian goalkeeper has made in his time on Wearside.
Mannone's mistake for St. Johnstone’s first was certainly peak Vito brain fart.
I get it, he’s a lovely bloke and he’s obviously got the club close to his heart, but taking him into the season as our number one is a huge risk.
The epitome of a confidence player, he never looks like he’s 100% sure of himself. Also, and it’s been mentioned before, but his distribution is utterly horrendous and the way he hesitates to give the ball out quickly to the full back when the counter is on is infuriating.
The Southampton debacle of 2014 is the one that sticks out most in the legacy of Mannone's failings, but let’s not forget his horror show at Burnley for a more recent example of Vito howlers.
It seems everyone is now patently aware of the downside of Mannone and Saturday came with all of it.
The game may have meant nothing then, but are we really, honestly and truly confident in the 29-year-old being our number one when it matters in the Championship?
The kids have earned their chance...
The term ‘play the kids’ has long been laughed at, but Saturday was proof that, at the very least, this newest crop have bought into the new regime and will work their socks off to gain a chance.
Post-match, Grayson commented on the performance of the youngsters stating;
It’s no surprise that when the young kids came on, they ran around, they showed desire to run forward and back, to do everything that is required to make a successful team.
He’s right too. That old adage that 'hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard' is very much true, and none more so than at Sunderland.
That’s not to say these young lads don’t have talent, but whilst our big names wondered aimlessly around the pitch - allowing St. Johnstone to run rings around them - the likes of Embleton, Beadling and Maja showed a steel and determination to fight in that second half; even though the game was lost and the result had no bearing on anything.
Some of those coming up from the under-23’s this season have an abunance of ability, but, most importantly, they look more up for the fight than some of the seasoned pros. That alone is enough to say they’ve earned a shot at the first team next year.
James Vaughan is a workhorse
So yeah, he didn’t take a very good penalty, but a first glance at our new centre forward was pleasing in the sense he never stopped working, even when things didn’t come off for him.
Vaughan won just about everything in the air and was perhaps unlucky not to have scored after superb work from Jeremain Lens down the right hand side; his glancing header going agonisingly wide of the post.
Admittedly, Vaughan isn’t the level of quality we have been used to in Jermain Defoe, but not many are.
Sunderland are in a place right now where grafters are needed, those who buy into the ethos of the club and those types of players are always going to be welcome after the past few years of wasters who have undeservedly graced our hallowed turf.
Grayson was right again with his post-match comments on Vaughan; he certainly looks the kind of player we can connect with. Now if he can just find his shooting boots...