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Djilobodji's Championship prospects; Gibson's class & the need for strikers - lessons from Bury

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Our man Tom Walsh was at Gigg Lane to watch Sunderland come from behind to beat Bury. Here's what we've learned from last night's pre-season friendly based on his hazy hungover reflections.  

Bury v Hull City - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Simon Grayson's debut game in charge, the first outing of that new strip, a squad still littered with gaps after a delayed start to the summer rebuild but a chance for Sunderland to begin to take stock and move forward with plotting the Championship campaign which begins in under four weeks' time.

That was Bury 2 vs Sunderland 3. Here's five things we learned in conversation with Walshie this morning from his mam and dad's spare room somewhere in Lancashire.


1. Gibson oozes class at this level

He's become a little-maligned but Darron Gibson was a cut above on the pitch last night. Composed, spraying passes around - admittedly against League One opposition in a pre-season game - but his class shone through.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League
Now he's got over the misery of last season, we should expect more from Darron Gibson
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The scars from last season's brutal relegation are taking time to heal and Gibson has become synonymous with David Moyes' failed recruitment policies. But with a Championship reboot and a summer refresh, Sunderland supporters will come to appreciate the 29-year-old Republic of Ireland international.

Half a match in a summer friendly may leave the jury out on Gibson, and his ability to overcome that tendency to fade in games will be tested in the Championship, but signs were positive from this 45 minutes.


2. Djilobodji still looks dodgy

Another comedy figure from last season, many remain hopeful that £8m man Papy Djilobodji will be an asset in the second-tier. His showing last night did little to affirm that fading glimmer of optimism.

Sunderland v Leicester City - Premier League
He can do it when he puts his mind to it - Papy Djilobodji
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The man famous for playing just 59 seconds as a Chelsea defender after his 2015 signing, played an hour last night and did little restore any confidence in him.

Shaky and positioned wrong, the 28-year-old can be excused for looking out of sorts in pre-season had he earned sufficient credit from last season for us to overlook his weaknesses.

He has barely played since he whacked Darren Fletcher in January and may need a run of games in a settled defence but who knows what the future holds for him and his partner for 60 minutes last night, Lamine Kone.


3. Maja impresses but Sunderland are desperate for strikers

Fresh from praise from new boss Simon Grayson who appears to have identified him as one-to-watch from that initial training camp in Austria, 18-year-old Josh Maja has bagged this morning's headlines for his two-goal haul.

Maja's match winners saved a few Mackem blushes and handed the 700 travelling Sunderland supporters a couple of strikes to cheer.

Sunderland v Everton: Premier League 2
Josh Maja - high hopes this season
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

And credit to him, but this match highlighted exactly where Grayson now needs to focus his meagre war chest in the next week or two. Sunderland need strikers - and a few of them.

In the first half, the Black Cats - who have spent so long looking for freshly-departed talisman Jermain Defoe as an outlet - were lacking a focal point to aim progress towards the opposition goal.

The introduction of Maja and Khazri helped but a target-man and a striker with some pace and aggression must be at the top of Grayson's shopping list this morning.


4. Sunderland must make a play to keep Khazri

He endured a sorry season under David Moyes but if we were the Sunderland management and coaching staff we'd be round Wahbi's house this morning buying him breakfast and bigging up his prospects of tearing up the Championship next season.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League
Wahbi, won't you stay
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Khazri's movement and ability on the ball is now roughly the most exciting thing about the Black Cats' squad and it showed again last night, setting up one of Maja's goals and generally looking lively.

Can't we keep him Simon?


5. A little patience is needed

Ok, so the summer didn't start how any of us would have liked. Takeover talk which ultimately proved to be gibberish nonsense and the miserable wake of Moyes had left Sunderland in a godawful state as June passed the club by.

But we're off. With a new manager and playing football again. He may not have been the devilishly cunning appointment many wanted but Simon Grayson has impressed most so far.

Simon Grayson
SAFC.com

Sunderland on this showing at Bury are way off being the finished Grayson article that will start the season or how the squad will look come the close of the transfer window.

But some supporters in the red-and-white end were already up in arms by the time the Shakers raced to an early two-goal lead. Early criticism and impatience with the first 45 minutes seemed a little perplexing after the new man has only had a little over a week to get to work.

Some patience will be needed through the sequence of pre-season friendlies and perhaps into the beginning of the Championship campaign. The squad will evolve quickly and by the time Celtic come to visit at the end of the month it should look a little more substantially rebuilt.

Until then, expect some bumps in the pre-season road and perhaps we all just need to take this summer for what it is and watch the rebuild unfold.