As the seconds ticked down towards the transfer deadline, news broke that topped off an excellent transfer window for the club.
Will Grigg had gone.
Yes, it’s only on loan, but it will take him through to the end of his Sunderland contract, and yes, we’re probably paying a decent portion of his wages for the remainder of the season, but the fact he’s departed the Stadium of Light holds huge significance.
Despite struggling for form when he originally got here, Grigg started the following season in the first team under Jack Ross. He failed to perform.
He was then brought back in when Phil Parkinson took over. He failed to perform.
Parkinson then gave him an opportunity in pre-season. He failed to perform.
Lee Johnson gave him a chance. He failed to perform.
Even this pre-season, Grigg was given yet another opportunity and, guess what. He failed to perform yet again.
Let’s be clear about this: the bloke was an absolute disaster for Sunderland.
From the moment he arrived, it was clear he had absolutely zero interest in being here. He didn’t ever come close to committing to Sunderland.
His body language was off, the effort put in during games minimal, and the interviews he gave making excuses for his inability to perform were pitiful.
He was yet another that saw the pound signs. Being generous, he saw a payday to help out Wigan. Either way, he took it with little regard for his part of the bargain - with little regard for the club or the supporters he was now taking money from.
In hindsight, the Grigg deal typifies the Stewart Donald era.
All talk, no substance.
To me, he looked to be a good short-term signing. A horrendously overpriced one, maybe, but one that was capable of firing us to promotion – but would never be able to make the step up to the Championship.
It was another Donald gamble. He put all of the chips on Grigg, and it failed miserably.
For all of that though, regardless of the price tag, regardless of the manner of his arrival, Grigg failed miserably. Zero professional pride.
His departure is most welcome because it not only gets him off our books, it signifies that this new era at SAFC simply won’t stand for anything less than total commitment.
You’re either all in, or you’re nowhere.
Lee Johnson had given Grigg yet another chance this pre-season, and once again he’d shown nothing approaching form.
The fact that Johnson came out and effectively threw him under the bus tells you all you need to know about the ‘new’ Sunderland AFC.
Will has made it pretty clear over a period of time that he wanted to get back closer to his family that reside in and around the Midlands area, and in that sense, you then have very different agendas.
Obviously, Sunderland’s agenda is to create the best possible team for the best possible price; his agenda will be to provide for his family and be as happy as possible but still get paid as much as he possibly can.
And any other club, a possible suitor, will - like Sunderland - want to get a player in at the lowest possible cost.
I think things will wash themselves out over the course of the next 18 days between now and the end of the window, but at the same time, there is never a grudge held.
Every individual has got to do all he can to maximise his chances of being in our team.
Will has got a bit to do if I’m honest.
He’s a good player and you can see the balance, the technique, the finishing quality.
But the postcode isn’t ideal, and where Will is he is going to need to commit more in his actions and his training and everything and his movements in terms of having to be at his best every minute of every day.
We very much demand those qualities.
I don’t doubt his desire, but he has to show that commitment to professionalism at the highest level.
Johnson’s comments weren’t off the cuff. They were deliberate. They were comments that had obviously been made behind closed doors previously.
It had reached breaking point.
The presence of a player who’s not pulling his weight in training, as Johnson alluded to, can have a detrimental effect on the others in the team. Take Aiden O’Brien’s comments after his hattrick at Blackpool. He could have upped stumps, he says, he could have sulked, he could have not put it in at training. But he chose not to. He chose to fight for his place. He chose to give 100 percent to prove his worth.
And that’s something that Sunderland supporters value highly – if you’re totally committed you’ll be forgiven a lot. Of course, this doesn’t always work out, George Honeyman being a prime example, but as a rule of thumb, it’s valid.
The inverse is certainly true. If you don’t put it inconsistently, you’ll not get an inch.
To be fair, Grigg’s never been given stick by the crowd. His last goal for Sunderland, a winner in the friendly at Hull, was warmly celebrated. His teammates all surrounded him in congratulation.
We all wanted him to succeed – unfortunately, he didn’t seem that bothered.
It’s easy for fans of other clubs to look at the situation and say, ‘Sunderland’s a basket case club’ as if it’s some sort of free pass. Yes, I’m sure there have been off-the-field issues we're not aware of and yes, we have been a basket case of a club over recent years (although that looks to be in the past) but that is no excuse for the simple lack of effort and commitment we’ve witnessed over the past two and a half years.
Grigg will go down in the history of Sunderland as one of our worst ever signings, but more than that he’ll feature at the top of that list, probably tied with Jack Rodwell.
Because while his performances were poor, his attitude was far worse.
And that’s unforgivable.