After a turbulent start to the summer with rumoured takeovers and managerial rejections, Sunderland finally appear to have found some stability in the form of Simon Grayson. And from the snippets we’ve seen of the big man, it’s hard not to be cautiously optimistic.
From interviews to social-media snippets, Grayson has done much to kindle flickerings of hope in the ranks of the Mackem faithful. We won’t be getting ahead of ourselves just yet, but what a refreshing change it’s been to see a manager speak so highly of the club, and appear so determined to succeed. For any of you who’ve followed the club’s Snapchat and Instagram stories I’m sure you’ll agree that Grayson looks like a man who knows what he wants.
Yeah, look, it’s been a whirlwind four or five days - it feels like I’ve been here three years already. I’ve constantly been on the phone trying to do some deals et cetera, obviously getting to know the players, getting to know my staff, but obviously when we get back to England we’re into the game against Bury.
The squad look to have been giving it their all in training while Grayson has barked orders from the sidelines as he looks to cultivate a winning brand of football. The uncertainty has been lifted and finally we look like a club who are beginning to understand who we are and what we should be doing.
As #SAFC’s Austrian training camp comes to an end Simon Grayson delivers his verdict #ThursdayThoughts— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) July 6, 2017
➡️ https://t.co/RkQ5PzDDX1 pic.twitter.com/Isv83LfOnb
This evening the Lads travel down to Bury where they will face Lee Clark’s side, and fans will be keen to see what Simon Grayson’s Sunderland bring to the table. Grayson himself noted that he’s looking to the game as another training exercise, and forewarned the travelling fans that his side won’t be the finished article come Friday -not that many fans will be expecting champagne football after barely a week in charge of the club:
It’ll be nice for the supporters to see the team again - we’re not the finished article with the squad and what we’ve been doing, it’s all about the fitness levels what we’ve been doing. So we’ll put out a team as another training exercise, and obviously over the next few weeks it’ll be more accustom of what’s going to be the start of the season and throughout the season.
The Bury game will be a barometer by which our progress thus far can be gauged. How will Grayson set out his rather limited stall, and how will the side look to play their football? For Grayson, his staff and the players though, it’s all about gathering momentum:
It’s all about moving forward - we’re not going to be the finished article by any stretch of the imagination on Friday - it’s all about progressing and moving forward both on the pitch and off the pitch. But so far with what we’ve done - I’m pleased with.
Head over to https://t.co/i3LbsUZUu8 now...— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) July 4, 2017
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⚽ U23 pre-season dates
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As noted by Grayson his current squad is rather slim in terms of personnel and, for the first several games at least, the Under-23's will be given an opportunity to prove their worth. The likes of O’Shea, Embleton, Ndong and Galloway will most likely not feature tomorrow night, though Grayson did note they should be in contention for the Hibs game this weekend.
One player in particular who will likely be given the chance to shine tonight will be Josh Maja. The 18 year old is one of the only forwards on the club’s books at present, and it’s likely that the new manager will be looking to his young talent to make a mark this evening:
He (Maja) has been good. I knew about him before I came and he’s an exceptional talent. The way we are at the moment with the squad, especially at the top of the pitch, these younger lads are going to get their opportunity over the next few games. They’re here to make an impression. We did say from day one that the under-23 players weren’t here to just make up the numbers; they’re here make an impression. Do that and you’re in with a chance for playing during the season.
It’s encouraging to hear Grayson speak so optimistically about the young prospects within the club, and the next several games will give them an opportunity to lay down a claim for a starting berth.
It goes without saying that the new gaffer will be looking to strengthen his squad after already adding Brendan Galloway to the club’s ranks for a year, but who knows - perhaps one of our young lads will grasp this opportunity with both hands and claim a spot as his own?
The manager was quick to point out that players just returning to the club will likely not be included in tomorrow’s game, though the game against Hibs this weekend could see them feature.
Other than that there seem to be few problems regarding injuries, and of the players currently at the club, all are available for selection. As mentioned the forward positions are without doubt under-strength and players will certainly be brought into the club to address that weakness, but tonight will be mainly about building fitness and beginning to plant the seeds of this season’s football.
Predicted XI: Who knows? Tonight’s game is all about experimenting with various players and styles of football; however, whoever does make the pitch will surely be determined to impress the new boss ahead of the coming season.
Score Prediction: I’m hoping for a comfortable victory that encourages fans ahead of the journey that lies before us. A nice 2-0 win would be just the ticket, and I think the players will be keen to prove their worth to the new manager.