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If even Jack Rodwell has a clean slate, then the manager cannot hide behind Sunderland’s past failures

Simon Grayson insists the much-maligned Jack Rodwell has started his Sunderland season with a clean slate. That’s fine in principle, but the manager at the Stadium of Light must heed his own advice and cease the fallback of his predecessors by hiding behind the failures of the past.

Livingston v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Sunderland fans can be forgiven for shaking their heads at the deja-vu nature of Simon Grayson’s post-match comments after Saturday’s debacle and his repeating of them in this afternoon’s press conference.

Grayson is merely the latest manager to endure a disappointing start to his tenure on Wearside and trot out the same old line that it’s been this bad at the Stadium of Light for as long as anyone can really remember.

It’s not just this year, it goes back a long way and we have to do whatever is required to get over that obstacle that’s in the way of this group of players and the supporters as well.

And he did it again this afternoon, harking back to the failings of previous regimes.

When you come to a new club for reasons of what’s happened in the previous period of time, what I have tried to do from day one is to be as positive as possible. Try to make sure we are not dwelling on the past - but you still can’t get away from what has happened at this football club.

Simon, we know we’ve been crap - but it really is time to move forward with a new group of players, in a different division. Being ‘positive’ about how crap we’ve been is not the answer here. A heartbroken clown with a painted smile is still a heartbroken clown.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Simon Grayson
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Thirty-thousand people are still attending games to follow this fresh start, and are all too aware of how poor this club has been. We don’t want to hear about past problems, they’re ingrained into the very fabric of the support, but we want solutions.

The Black Cats boss has also insisted that Saturday’s game marked a fresh start for the long-derided figure that is Jack Rodwell. Booed intermittently by a fed up home crowd, the one-time England international has been offered more clean slates than most.

I don’t like to see individuals picked out like that. Jack cares about what happens to this club. For me this was his debut because I’d told him whatever has happened is in the past. This is a new start and hopefully people will give him a chance

But if Simon Grayson expects the Wearside faithful to consider a new beginning for Rodwell, then wider still, yet another manager hiding behind the mistakes of the past in order to casually explain the state of the present really isn’t going to wash this time.

There’s a convenient excuse to be offered at Sunderland every time a bad run of form engulfs the club. It’s all too easy for the present incumbent to blame the previous incumbents and suggest it’s always been this way. Being ‘positive’ about it won’t fix it in isolation.

David Moyes did it with alarming regularity and so too, to some extent, have those who preceded him during the wilderness years as the Black Cats stunk out the Premier League.

Sunderland v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
It’s no good blaming what’s gone before when you have an almost entirely new squad
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

But the net result - as Sunderland face yet another crisis - is simply that no one has ever sought to fix the problem. An entire squad rebuild - like the one Simon Grayson has just completed - ought to have been the definitive point at which a line is drawn in order that the club can move forward.

That is exactly what Black Cats fans had pinned their hopes on Grayson coming in to do, and so his comments in the wake of Saturday’s hopeless showing are disappointing and, in part, explain some of the backlash from Sunderland supporters over the course of the weekend.

If the man tasked with organising, selecting and motivating the players who take to the pitch has so easily followed the lead of those who have gone before him to gloss over his own failings and blame some perceived embedded culture of failure, then what hope does Sunderland AFC really have?

Though that isn’t the full story of course. Because there’s a constant allusion from those that follow the goings on at the Stadium of Light that there is some unidentified factor at the club which means players turn to crap the minute they take to the pitch in a red-and-white shirt.

Sunderland v Southampton - Premier League
Black clouds gathering above the Stadium of Light
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Some privately blame it on the fans - no doubt. There is an oft-repeated claim that once Sunderland concede a first goal, a dark cloud looms above the banks of the Wear and those in the stands begin howling at the moon and turning on the players before hastily leaving for the exits.

It’s bollocks of course. Sunderland were tactically inept against Sheffield United on Saturday and that solely rests upon the shoulders of Simon Grayson. The team beaten by a side who were in League One last season were not prepared nor motivated sufficiently to overcome opponents they should have been able to compete with.

And worst still - it was the same at Barnsley a little over a fortnight ago. The players crumpled in a confidence-less heap. And that certainly wasn’t the Stadium of Light to blame.

Simon Grayson may have many obstacles in his way to make Sunderland a success, but of all the Black Cats managers this past decade, he has - despite the financial limitations placed upon him - a unique opportunity to rebuild the squad and reconnect it with the fan base.

Hiding behind past failures will only have one outcome.

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