The names of Simon Grayson and Phil Parkinson are enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest Sunderland fan, but if you then throw in episode three of the first season of the Netflix series Sunderland Til’ I Die, with Bolton Wanderers on Halloween 2017, then we have an impressive horror movie right there.
As episode three of Sunderland Til’ I Die begins, we have an insightful summary that provides the context to events...
A lot money, to watch that shower of shite. No effort, no class, no f*cking idea.
No truer words were spoken of our predicament at the time, but let’s remind ourselves of how we got there. The previous year had seen a defeated (evidently in August for the record) David Moyes lead us during a disastrous relegation from the Premier League, finishing bottom with 24 points, leaving us ten adrift of safety.
It was pretty obvious that the fans didn’t want the former Manchester United manager in the dugout any longer, and it was clear he didn’t want to remain manager of the club after the season had finished, so it was no surprise when he left.
The financial situation at the club meant that whoever took the job on to follow Moyes wouldn’t have the simplest of tasks, with too many big earners on the books and little funds to strengthen the squad.
When the job fell to Simon Grayson, who joined from Preston, it was maybe a signal to everyone as to our new ambitions. With Grayson having been primarily a manager who had taken teams up from League One up to the Championship.
Sunderland kicked off the season live on Sky against Gary Rowett’s Derby County on a Friday evening, with six of the starting XI making their competitive debuts for the club. Jason Steele, Brendan Galloway, Tyias Browning, James Vaughan, Lewis Grabban and Aiden McGeady all began their life at Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in the season opener that ended in a pretty solid 1-1 draw.
We then went on to beat Norwich City 3-1 in the following game to provide some false hope, because after picking up three points in Norfolk, we failed to do so in our next twelve league games.
Following defeat at home to Lee Johnson’s Bristol City we found ourselves second bottom in the table, with the only team below us being Phil Parkinson’s Bolton Wanderers - who were our next opponents on home soil three days later.
The writing was on the wall. If Grayson didn’t collect all three points on Halloween against Bolton, the only side propping us up in the table, he would surely be gone.
A crowd of just 26,395 abandoned a night’s trick or treating for the Stadium of Light, a decision many would come to regret, especially just after the half hour mark when Sammy Ameobi but the away side ahead with a strike that highlighted our goalkeeping issues at the time.
On the stroke of half-time, Grayson’s upcoming team talk was made slightly more comfortable when Lewis Grabban finished neatly to level things up before the break. Whatever Grayson had said at the interval appeared to have an impact initially when Grabban finished a rare flowing move just over ten minutes into the second half to give Sunderland the lead.
As was the case on so many other occasions during this season, the glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel was simply another train hurtling towards us, as this one lasted just three minutes. A catalogue of errors attempting to clear our lines was finished with Gary Madine making the scoreline 2-2 on the hour.
Seven minutes later, it got worse. A cross from the Bolton left was looped to the back post to find Karl Henry who volleyed it home into the bottom corner of the net to once again to give Phil Parkinson’s side the lead. Another disastrous episode at the back sparked calls for Grayson’s departure even though there was just over twenty minutes still left on the clock.
With around ten minutes left, Paddy McNair made it 3-3, which is how the game finished, but it had felt more like a defeat. The writing was on the wall, everyone seemed to know it and Martin Bain acted quickly to make the change, very quickly. Grayson didn’t even make the post-game press conference.
It was the shortest reign of a Sunderland manager in our entire history. Even then it could be argued it was too long.
Happy Halloween everyone.
Tuesday 31st October, 2017
Stadium of Light
Sunderland 3-3 Bolton Wanderers
[Grabban 45, 57’, McNair 79’ — Ameobi 32’, Madine 60’, Henry 67’]
Sunderland: Ruiter, Matthews, O’Shea, Wilson, Oviedo, McManaman (Watmore), Gibson (McNair), Ndong, McGeady, Williams (Vaughan), Grabban Substitutes not used: Steele, Kone, Cattermole, Honeyman
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Little, Robinson, Pratley, Wheater, Beevers, Ameobi, Henry, Madine, Veta, Armstrong (Noone) Substitutes not used: Howard, Darby, Derik, King, Cullen, Buckley