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Looking forward to our first pre-season game, what lies ahead for Will Grigg?

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Gateshead await Sunderland this afternoon, so Jack Howe-Gingell considers the Will Grigg conundrum... what lies ahead for the Northern Irish centre forward?

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

It has been well-documented and witnessed that Will Grigg has struggled during his tenure as a Sunderland forward. The Northern Ireland international has failed to hit the back of the net with any dribble of consistency, and this is shown in his meagre goal tally – his body language has been languid, and he has appeared to be downbeat, disinterested and demotivated.

You can argue that tactically we have not played to his strengths or that the system does not suit his style of play. Maybe he did not really wish to move to the North-East in the first place, with Wigan simply happy to accept a large transfer fee for a player who has only starred at League One level.

With that in mind, where does Grigg go now?

What may skew the perspective on the Grigg saga is that he has apparently moved to the North-East, after previously commuting backwards and forwards from his home in the North-West. Could this be taken as a step of initiative from Grigg? His permanent relocation could be a display of intention, and surely would be beneficial to his morale.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Although we have had no official matches to speak of, it has been reported that Grigg has been prolific within intra-squad friendlies, and he certainly appears to be looking leaner and more driven within the media released by the club from training.

This isn’t enough to support Grigg wholeheartedly, but a possible shift from him in terms of attitude and work-rate can only be positive.

You must also consider the current state of the squad and our transfer activity.

Starting with the former, we have two senior players other than Grigg who could be regarded as strikers: Charlie Wyke and Aiden O’Brien. Wyke is another who has struggled for any kind of goalscoring form, and at this stage it’s unclear in which position O’Brien will be deployed – Millwall supporters say he prefers a central role, is a natural finisher and would have been even more prolific for them if he had been used as such.

His versatility may mean he plays wider, leaving us even thinner up top.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Regarding the latter, we have not been linked with a cavalcade of strikers. We may have signed one in O’Brien as discussed but not many others have been mooted – is this due to Phil Parkinson’s plan to rely upon Wyke and Grigg or simply because we are still in the midst of finalising signings.

We know that Parkinson was keen on Wyke last season, but perhaps a newly motivated Grigg could come into contention. It’s also worth considering that if the salary cap is not successfully opposed, no one is likely to be able to sign Grigg other than a loan scenario, with us footing the bill.

With little link to strikers, the uncertainty as to where O’Brien will play, and the unlikelihood that Grigg will be moved on, it seems almost certain that Grigg will be involved it some capacity. Saturday’s match against Gateshead may provide some answers as to tactics and preferred line-ups, but another questions remains – can Will Grigg achieve redemption?

We all remember that missed open goal, but maybe now due to a lack of options, renewed confidence from the manager and a reported rejuvenation, we may get what we all want – all goalscorer to replace Josh Maja. Grigg is proven at this level, and maybe, just maybe, a combination of his attitude and our team might finally get the best out of him.

Sunderland v Tranmere Rovers - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images