In the wake of Tuesday’s humiliation at Ipswich, Simon Grayson moved quickly in an attempt to quell growing disquiet on Wearside by appearing on Sky Sports to plea for time to turn Sunderland around.
And he will no doubt get it - but how long is the question. The Black Cats boss will lead his team out at Deepdale on Saturday claiming Preston are in a good place because of his previous work at the club currently sitting in fifth in the Championship.
But for a Sunderland fan base already worn down by last season in which the club’s now departed manager repeatedly pointed to his former glories as evidence of his current prowess, Grayson’s successes in Lancashire mean little ahead of a game he dare not lose.
Yet following Saturday’s visit to Deepdale, Sunderland’s fixture list presents with a string of winnable games after the international break, including home matches against QPR, Bristol City and Bolton with a trip to Brentford sandwiched in between before November’s Tees-Wear derby.
Surely Grayson will be given October to turn his side around in those games and get some of the Black Cats’ key men back into the first team frame - particularly those signed in the summer by the man himself along with returning attacker, Duncan Watmore.
The former England U21 man will be key addition to Sunderland’s front line and it’s clear Grayson may well be banking his job at the Stadium of Light on Watmore making a successful return.
Others who have been missing or in-and-out of the squad lately such as Aiden McGeady, Callum McMananan and Jonny Williams should be back available for the next few games, as well as leading scorer Lewis Grabban at some point following the international break.
Key absences at key moments are but one mitigating factor for Sunderland’s poor start but whilst the manager’s pleas for time will resonate with many who have watched on in horror at the sheer state of the club this past few years, the fact that Grayson’s side are worsening by the week under his tutelage will surely have alarmed the Black Cats hierarchy.
Arresting those tell-tale signs of dressing room unrest is the single biggest issue Grayson must address this week. The supposed cathartic effect of a drunken Darron Gibson calling out his teammates appears to have had little lasting impact on morale in the Sunderland camp.
Personnel, including the manager, seemingly informing the press of these continued issues - as they did following the Ipswich debacle - will ultimately help no one either.
Some will claim Sunderland’s finances mean they simply can not afford to sack Grayson and hand him some form of pay-off; but for a club which saddled itself in a similar way with David Moyes on a long deal last season, surely lessons were learnt and some type of break clause or liability-limit on the monies the latest incumbent would be due upon losing his job has been built in.
Regardless, with crowds dwindling and supporters turning away from the club as results continue to worsen, Sunderland simply cannot afford to back their man for too much longer.
No doubt budgets and cash-flow forecasts have been set with a certain expectation on Stadium of Light attendances. With the last Saturday game attracting just 25,000 - almost twenty-percent down on August crowds already - tickets sold are likely to fall further still and will start hitting anticipated revenue streams - the bottom line which may guarantee Bain and Short sit bolt upright.
It is perhaps telling that Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain made little direct reference to Grayson in his recent interviews with the press. There was certainly no talking up of his manager’s credentials or vision of the long-term with the North Yorkshire native at the helm.
Grayson seems to be merely passing through Sunderland. Appointed because of some reputation for managing on a shoe-string in the EFL, the 47-year-old is expected to keep this team out of League One and keep schtum on club matters which do not concern him.
Whilst he has continued to assert that he was fully aware of the parameters in which he must work at the Stadium of Light, surely Grayson would privately admit to having expected to be able to spend a little more than the paltry £1.25m he ended up with in the summer.
But that acceptance of his budget-less budget may have stored him up some credit in the sack-bank and keep in the job a good while longer yet.