Grayson – emotionally resilient or tactically limited?
It's early days yet. Perhaps too early to judge a manager based on a few games, but that doesn't stop the creeping suspicion.
Watching the Sheffield Wednesday match I couldn't go more than five minutes into the second half before my fingers began tapping my knees and my leg bounced nervously – I was waiting for substitutions.
It was the third game in a week, and it showed. Our players were visibly tiring after a bright start and our opponents were wise to this; Carlos Carvalhal began the changes at the start of the second half with the introduction of Sunderland old boy and Lamborghini enthusiast Steven Fletcher. From kick off they were more energetic and more determined, and by the time they brought Jordan Rhodes on they had already equalised – now a more attacking and energetic team had the opportunity to really take advantage of our ailing squad. We were bloody lucky they failed to do so and we have the post to thank for that.
By comparison we waited for 80 minutes before McGeady's ageing legs got a well deserved rest. He's been arguably the most productive of the entire team since the season began, covering and notching three assists on top of his two goals. Essentially all our creativity is coming through him, so is it wise to leave him trotting on tired legs for half an hour, daring the gods of football to do what they do best and strike down Sunderland?
Let's be honest here: we were lucky to come away from that match with a point. Our opponents had half a dozen chances squandered or cleared with the kind of desperation you can only bear witness to with Jones, Galloway and Steele protecting the goal mouth. For all the effort and hard work that went into our first half performance, and for all a hard fight deserves a point, we weren't the better team last night. Were it not for the exuberance of youth evident in players like Honeyman, Ndong and Browning, and later Gooch, we wouldn't have been able to get the ball into their half to nullify some of the threat – and we barely managed that as the game wore on.
One thing is for sure: if the manager pushes the team like that every game, players will be injured faster than we can treat them. Particularly when the onus is on men like Aiden McGeady; the fragility highlighted by his injury record is something that cannot be ignored. For all his ability he's useless to us in traction.
What concerns me about the hesitancy to make the change is what it might mean when we're looking at Grayson as a tactician. On the one hand it can take balls of steel to maintain the fragile momentum of the squad on any given day, daring to be confident enough that this team can finish the job. On the other, the fear of failure can tie a managers hands at the most crucial point in the game: the time to chase the win. The best and most successful managers can feel the ebb and flow of the game as a General reads a battle, and they have the constitution to hold their ground and the determination to bite the bullet and go for three points, making tactical changes along the way.
So which do we have with Simon Grayson? Is he full of steely resolve as I first suspected when he refused to make substitutions during the Derby match, where he stuck to his game plan and the team brought home a crucial first point? Or is he so scared of losing that point that he can't recognise the flagging energy levels of his squad, and the jeopardy he places them in by failing to do so?
Time will tell. As I say – it's early days yet, but I've a feeling the timing of his changes is something we should keep an eye on this season.