Sunderland manager hails hunger and desire in Derby fightback – but admits team is a work in progress

James Vaughan loses out to Derby defender Richard Keogh. Picture by Frank Reid.
James Vaughan loses out to Derby defender Richard Keogh. Picture by Frank Reid.
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Simon Grayson admits Sunderland remain a work in progress – but he has praised the character shown in the draw with Derby County.

Sunderland kicked off their Championship campaign with a 1-1 draw against Gary Rowett’s Rams side last nigyht and Grayson was pleased with his side’s committed display.

Sunderland fell behind to an 11th-minute Bradley Johnson goal but hit back from the penalty spot through Lewis Grabban.

It had been a difficult build-up following the 5-0 drubbing by Celtic and the public outburst by Darron Gibson.

Sunderland had a point to prove in more ways than one and Grayson believes his side went some way to answering those – but the experienced boss knows there is still a long way to go.

“Things have happened this week and people have been questioned about their desire and hunger of the club.

“There were 11 committed players out there desperate to run for every ball, to challenge for every ball and do whatever is required to get a result.

“Testament to that is the supporters gave them a big round of applause when they ran and chased and we got the point.”

Skipper Lee Cattermole excelled and Grayson praised his impact but said it was one of several strong performances.

Grayson added: “I think you expect Lee to be your leader and do that. People lead in different ways, he is an example to others.

“It was spread right amongst the group. I’d said to the players, ‘whatever we do we don’t have any regrets when we come back in’.

“If you make a mistake go and affect the game again. We will play better as the season develops and play more football. There was still some decent stuff tonight.

“Hopefully we will put together a committed group of players who want to work for the shirt, that will be honest as they can be and somewhere down the line give the supporters something to cheer about.

“That is all we want the players to do, the basics. That is a given normally and players have shown that in abundance.”

It will take time for Sunderland to bounce back from the pain of relegation and a difficult summer off the pitch.

Grayson says he doesn’t have a “magic wand” to turn around the club’s fortunes quickly, but he was pleased with the display.

“It will be a slow process, but what we have got to do is take positive steps in everything that we do. Tonight is a platform to build on,” he added.

“I don’t have a magic wand that I can suddenly turn this football club into a real, positive happy-go-lucky club and suddenly we will be playing free flowing football.

“We have to earn the right and the victories we are going to get. Ultimately it is about small steps.

“The point was the least we deserved – we were very good in many different ways.

“We started extremely well and had them on the back foot. It was a big disappointment in conceding the goal, but we didn’t crumble.

“This time last year, or previously, the team might have gone under – we got on the front foot and asked Derby a lot of questions in terms of the final third.

“There is a lot of work in terms of restoring the confidence and the belief in the group and this can go a long way as we didn’t crumble.”