Simon Grayson isn’t your golden ticket back into the Premier League, that’s a fact every Sunderland fan is well acquainted with. What he is, however, is a refreshing change from the defeatism and consequential mediocrity we’ve endured over the latter half of our decade in the Premier League.
The epitome of this negativity was David Moyes. The Scotsman arrived at Sunderland a broken, miserable, stubborn man more than willing to throw in the towel the second it was handed to him. If the club which he would inherit was anything less than perfect, he’d use any fault he could find to condemn the task he was given as insurmountable - and the club’s lack of quality as unsalvageable.
Sunderland’s relatively low budget which Moyes had to work with undoubtedly made his job a challenge, but it was just that - a challenge. Challenges are meant to be faced, and Moyes clearly felt it was pointless stepping up to the plate.
As a result, the preparations he made for the season ahead could only be classed as preparations in the loosest sense of the word, as his summer shopping largely consisted of dishing out contracts to players he’d managed before - whether those be rejects looking for their only option to stay in the top flight, or his old, over-the-hill mates that didn’t quite fancy moving to a retirement league just yet.
It doesn’t matter which of these categories Paddy McNair, Donald Love, Steven Pienaar and Joleon Lescott fit into, the result of making these signings was a sense of dread among Sunderland fans as the new recruits constituted a poor squad by Premier League standards.
Now, it’s all well and good that Grayson’s saying all of the right things to get us on board, but his transfer policy has striking similarities to Moyes’ - a man whose signings were indicative of the fact that he was the wrong man for the job. My question is, if Grayson is a breath of fresh air and Moyes was the eye before the relegation storm, then how can the fact that they have similar transfer policies not be a cause for concern?
Grayson, much like his predecessor, has looked to clubs he used to manage when considering who his additions to our threadbare squad will be. Aiden McGeady is the most prominent example, as he worked with the Irishman last season with Preston, and James Vaughan was part of Grayson’s Huddersfield side back in 2012/13. Just like Moyes, Grayson fancies relying on familiar faces.
But like I said before, Grayson brings a refreshing change - and at the core of that is a positive, yet realistic mentality such as that which we’ve only glimpsed at under Allardyce and been blind to otherwise.
The transfer policies of the two managers may look similar, but the mentality behind them couldn’t be more different.
Moyes just brought in anyone he knew because, quite frankly, he couldn’t be arsed to put up a fight and saw relegation as a foregone conclusion. Grayson, however, maintains the belief that players who are more than willing to graft for their place at Sunderland and genuinely want to be here are those he should target in his efforts to build an identity for our club - as it happens, players he’s managed before fit that criteria.
It might be early days, and actions most definitely speak louder than words, but James Vaughan’s eagerness to reassure fans that he’ll strive to be the standard Sunderland need to mount a promotion push is convincing to hear and reassures us that Grayson is filling the dressing room with the right characters.
If such characters are readily available at the gaffer’s old clubs, then by all means get them signed up. Don’t, however, sign players just because they fill up a team sheet while being too nihilistic to care otherwise.
Grayson and Moyes might have favoured home comforts in their summer shopping, but as strategists - and as people - the reality of their overhauls couldn’t be more different.