David Preece: Sunderland players will be hoping appointment of new boss happens sooner rather than later

Simon Grayson has been linked with the Sunderland job.
Simon Grayson has been linked with the Sunderland job.
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It will be a strange time for the players who are still under contract at the Stadium of Light this summer.

You might think that as long as they have the security of at least one more year left on their contract and the money keeps dropping into their accounts at the end of the month, they won’t be worrying themselves too much whilst they’re away on holiday.

But no matter what they do to relax and unwind away from the toil of the last 10 months, there will be an edge of anxiety whenever they think about returning for pre-season.

At this moment in time, they don’t know who will be welcoming them back from their break and that brings insecurity to their future, whatever their contractual ties.

What if the new manager is someone you have previously worked under and didn’t have the greatest of relationships with? What if you’re just not the type of player he wants at the club and will look to discard you before you’ve kicked a ball under his guidance?

What if you’ve had an operation to cure a chronic injury from the season that’s just ended and you know you won’t be 100% fit for the beginning of training? It’s a tense time.

The problem with a manager’s seat being left vacant for too long is that players don’t have something to focus on, something more motivational than just their own will power and desire.

At least when a manager is appointed, you have a tangible target to work towards. You have a better idea what kind of character the new man is, so you can get your head around the task you face and better prepare yourself for winning a place in the starting 11.

Whilst it’s important that the right man must be chosen, it’s also important to give him and the rudderless squad of players the time to come to terms with their future relationship.

There are phone calls and meetings to be made between the manager, his coaches and his players. He needs to gauge what kind of squad he is inheriting, what is needed to strengthen the squad, who are the problematic player who need weeding out, and to get a feel for the club.

They can’t afford to be appointed just prior to the players’ return as this time is valuable so that when that first training session begins, they have rid themselves of all the formalities of getting to know everyone. You need that head start to give yourself a chance of success.

I know how important it is given that the same situation of a manager losing their job after the final game of the season happened twice during my career. The first was at Aberdeen in 2004 when Steve Paterson was fired whilst we were away on holiday.

It had been an awful season and he’d had well-documented problems off the pitch so it was hardly a surprise when the end came.

I was vice-captain under Paterson and due to the absence of Russell Anderson through injury, I assumed the duties for much of that season but at that moment it meant nothing.

All I got was a letter through the post from incoming manager Jimmy Calderwood outlining the first weeks training sessions for pre-season, that I should follow the training plan and basically there’d be a price to pay if I didn’t.

We weren’t even given the nicety of a veiled threat! It was ‘do this or you’re out’ and that was that. A line was clearly drawn and the man was true to his word with two players who performed badly in those first tests of fitness shown the door.

And when I say ‘performed badly’ I mean they were outfield players who finished well behind the myself and Ryan Esson, the two keepers, in all of the longer distance running. That bad.

That season started well with five clean sheets in the first six games and finally finishing in third place to qualify for Europe.

The contact between the players and the new manager that summer was minimal but at least the decision had been early and the gauntlet had been thrown down by the new boss.

From the moment that letter dropped through our letterboxes, we knew the standards Calderwood and his assistant Jimmy Nicholl expected and we had time to ready ourselves.

The second time was when I was at Barnsley. We had kept our place in the Championship comfortably, which was the objective, but manager Mark Robins’ relationship with the chairman had become fractious and a professional disagreement led to him being put on gardening leave.

At the time, my contract was due to end but I had been promised that once the season ended, I would be offered a new one by Robins once he had his budget finalised. Which was all very good apart from the fact he was technically now no longer manager of the club and verbal agreements don’t mean a thing in this situation.

So instead of enjoying my holiday, I spent the best part of the fortnight staying in contact with the chief executive of the club until a new manager was appointed. It wasn’t until some weeks had passed and I was back in England that I could breathe a sigh of relief that incoming manager Keith Hill decided he’d offer me a new deal.

To say I was relieved would be an understatement. For five weeks or so I had no idea whether I was still in a job or not and had begun making plans, trying to tout myself about. I had to. And at 33, almost 34, you begin to contemplate the end and that waiting, looking at your telephone every five minutes hoping for some news from the club or an agent was hell.

That insecurity and the unknown can keep you on your toes and motivated but it isn’t good for your personal life and I know that the Sunderland players will be hoping the appointment happens sooner rather than later. We all do really, just for different reasons.