Following last week’s refusal to rule out the prospect of relegation to League One, Simon Grayson’s increasingly odd pre-match press conferences have taken a fresh twist this afternoon with an apparent swipe at swathes of the Sunderland support.
When questioned about the criticism aimed at himself and his second bottom side, the Black Cats boss appeared to suggest those complaining about a run of results which have returned 1 point from eight games, have little right to do so if they didn’t make the 450-mile round trip to Portman Road midweek to witness his side being trounced five goals to two.
In what could be construed as an attack of some sort on an unidentified section of the Sunderland fanbase, Grayson appeared to insist that some of those alarmed by his one-win-in-ten start to life at the Stadium of Light, are merely jumping on some perceived bandwagon:
Results like this [losing 5-2 at Ipswich] will bring people out the woodwork, who are moaning and complaining and have probably never been to Ipswich on a Tuesday night or not really been up and down the country.
Seemingly catching himself, the former Preston boss who returns to Deepdale tomorrow with his faltering Sunderland side, attempted to then contrast those fans who didn’t make the trip to Suffolk on Tuesday with those who did:
On the other side there is a lot of supporters who have done and have a right to voice an opinion.
But to those who have concerns about this current Black Cats side and their attitude and application which has been repeatedly questioned - even by some in the squad itself - Grayson was in an unforgiving mood in front of the cameras earlier today:
Anyone who is having any doubts about any of us, we can stick two fingers up to, and say look we care about this club and we are here to get results.
This latest batch of comments from a manager clearly feeling the heat at the Stadium of Light are something of a jarring read and not least, criticism will follow from those pointing to the economic reality of life on Wearside and the affordability of following Sunderland “up and down the country”.
With crowds at home games already significantly down on last season and dwindling by the week, whether Grayson really meant to criticise the stay-aways who now make up the majority of the support is unclear.
Regardless, taking aim at football fans in the north east - whatever the actual intent - and appearing to question their commitment is a dangerous ploy which has seen the back of numerous managers over the years.
Some of Grayson’s other comments this afternoon bear little scrutiny too, particularly his boast that Jason Steele - who shipped five after replacing Robbin Ruiter - was not to blame for any of the Ipswich goals.
Jason Steele trying to RKO the opposition. pic.twitter.com/Gc7gThHkLb— CJ (@Gesteder) September 26, 2017
Defending his goalkeeper may be commendable to a point, but to follow it up by claiming his other senior stopper would likely have been equally poor is just another clumsy effort from Grayson as he continues to raise eyebrows with his public utterances:
Steele was not to blame for any of the goals. What is to say Robbin Ruiter would not have conceded them goals?
Quite simply, the Sunderland boss has offered little defence there today to those he believes are “crawling out of the woodwork” to criticise him and merely provided those perceived enemies with additional ammunition.
At best, Grayson simply appears to lack the eloquence to get his point across succinctly when put under pressure and the relentless round of media duties after a relentless round of soul-sapping defeats seems to be taking its toll.
A win on Saturday will lift the mood of course, but being perceived as criticising supporters - whether intended or not - is a stupidly dangerous tactic, as is attempting to set one segment of the support up against another.