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Molly Burke: August is over - what have we learned about Simon Grayson’s Sunderland so far?

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There’s a lot to be learned from the club’s first month in the Championship under the tutelage of Simon Grayson, but should we feel upbeat about what's to follow after the international break.

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

So, after a long-awaited start to life in the Championship, the first month of the season is over. It's been an interesting few weeks to say the least, and here’s a few thoughts about what we can take from the campaign’s performances thus far.


Grayson has changed the mentality of the club

Our search for a new manager after David Moyes' sacking was a never-ending saga that was both painful and tiring for all Sunderland fans. We were linked to almost everyone, and in return almost everyone rejected us.

When Simon Grayson was given the job, a number of the Sunderland faithful weren't best pleased with the apparent lack of ambition his appointment suggested. However, first and foremost, the Championship experience of the Preston boss has proved useful in his first month in the North East.

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

Moyes' careless, negative attitude to football was glaringly obvious from the word go. He couldn't lift the Black Cats to anything above average and possessed a bunch of players who didn't want to pull on that Sunderland shirt or fight for survival.

Moyes didn't develop any sort of connection with the club and just saw it as a job he had to do if he didn't want to be unemployed - and let's face it, few will want him now.

Grayson is a different character altogether. Within hours of him setting foot in Sunderland, he had already shown more care and compassion than Moyes ever had. He told us fans that he didn't want anyone in the red and white shirt that didn't want to be here; he was happy to get rid of anyone that wasn't up for the fight no matter their quality.

The gaffer has brought in a bunch of players keen to show what they are made of. And those who have stayed despite our relegation appear to have shown through their performances they are committed to Grayson and our club.

Despite the fact that we haven’t had a perfect start to life in the Championship, Grayson has given me a feeling of excitement that I haven't experienced in so long, and for once I don't dread match days.


We can't just rely on Lewis Grabban

Deadline Day was approaching and for about a month we had been heavily linked with Villa outcast Ross McCormack. Despite his attitude and his recent lack of game time, this seemed like it would be a decent signing for us.

However, it took till the afternoon of the transfer window shutting for Steve Bruce to decide he didn't want to loan a striker to a rival and called the deal off. Disappointment as per from Bruce.

It was very much a Sunderland thing to do to not bother bringing in a striker when we definitely needed one, and that is exactly what we did.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Lewis Grabban (L)
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

James Vaughan is yet to score a goal for the club and is still adapting to life in the Championship, while Josh Maja is still out injured and has only played a few pre-season games with the first team.

That leaves us with Lewis Grabban, and while he has had an impressive start to life in the North East, we can't rely on him the entirety of the season. If he was to get injured or have a rough patch, his struggles would really hurt our hopes for a successful first Championship campaign in a decade.


Brendan Galloway is struggling

Galloway arrived on loan in a double deal with Tyias Browning in July, and with him came a lot of potential and promising comments from Everton fans. The left-back spent last season at West Brom but failed to impress in the Premier League, but the Toffees claimed he would thrive in the Championship with us.

I had a lot of hope for Galloway after hearing only good things about him; however the 21-year-old has disappointed since his arrival.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Brendan Galloway
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

He was arguably at fault for goals against Derby and Leeds and has looked a liability every match. His slim build has proven an issue for him, allowing attackers to easily shrug him off and get a cross in.

It is clear to see that our defence has struggled since the start of the season and unless Galloway bucks his ideas up he's going to feel the wrath of the Sunderland fans - which is definitely a dangerous path to tread.


Grayson deserves credit for his transfers, but why not sell?

We all knew that Grayson would be given next to nothing to spend on players by Ellis Short this summer, an issue that previous managers have experienced every transfer window.

Grayson has spent less than £2m in his first few months with Sunderland, in an attempt to add depth and quality to our threadbare side. Despite only spending pennies he has managed to bring in 10 players - seven of which were snapped up from Premier League clubs.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
The Stadium of Light
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

While these signings don't set the world alight, they are impressive given our limited transfer budget.

However, my major criticism of the club's dealings in the transfer market is our lack of profit made on Fabio Borini, Wahbi Khazri, Papy Djilobodji and Jeremain Lens - who all departed on loan deals. What I fail to understand is how we benefit from this?

Khazri signed for French side Rennes on Deadline Day - the club that were keen to sign West Ham striker Diafra Sakho for £9m earlier that day. If we knew they had this sort of money, why were we so willing to hand him over for a single season rather than selling him on? And in return we get zilch. Ridiculous.


It's a work in progress

Once we were relegated and David Moyes had destroyed every last bit of hope we had, nobody thought we would be able to replicate Newcastle's Championship season and get promoted at the first time of asking.

Negativity had spread around our club like the plague and it was looking like we would do a Wolves or an Aston Villa - perhaps even worse.

Players like Defoe and Pickford were leaving and we had no money to replace them. Nobody had managed to pick up this depleted team and turn it into one that played for the badge and made us fans proud.

While Grayson has arguably done a good job transforming this team already, and has lifted the spirits of everyone involved with the club, it is still just a work in progress.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Simon Grayson
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Sunderland AFC was rotten to the core by the time Moyes left and we can't expect Grayson to click his fingers and for us to be back in the Premier League, financially stable and bringing in top players. This squad needs rebuilding - getting rid of those that don't want to be here and bringing in the hungry players we desire.

Of course, I'm not saying we should be accepting below average performances, because we are capable of better than what we had to deal with against Leeds or Barnsley, but we were never going to take the Championship by storm. We must be patient in our bid for promotion and stick by Grayson and the team, because for the first time in a while things are getting better.