Martin Bain on Simon Grayson, Sunderland's league position and turning the club around
As Simon Grayson and Sunderland face up to two pivotal home games in a thus far disappointing season, Chief Executive Martin Bain has offered his support to the Black Cats manager and played down fears of back-to-back relegations.
Sunderland sit second bottom of the table after just one win in 13; the gap to the play-off places already 12 points.
As the search for a home win nears 11 months, many see the clashes against Bristol City and fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers as a crucial time to turn around the club’s ailing fortunes on the pitch.
Bain has admitted his frustration with the poor start but insists it is too early to write off the possibility of a succesful season.
He said: “I look at that and I look at my calendar and I see it’s October. We’re in October with a long way to go in the season with a squad of players who are committed. I spoke to Lee and John the other night and they’re two gentlemen with determination who don’t like being where they’re at. The fact that we’re in October, the fact that I’ve got committed people at this football club working alongside me, I’m sure we’ll climb the table.
“Nobody at the football club is happy that we are where we are in the Championship,” he added.
“Everybody at the football club is determined to start climbing the table, I have a belief that everybody working alongside me does care about the football club, including myself. So its just a case of putting the hours in, people can be rest assured that we’re doing everything we can.
“Its been well documented that there’s been an awful lot of change in recent times, 15 players leaving, ten new ones coming in, completely different coaching staff. For any club that's a big transition, for this football club with some of the circumstances that we’re working with, then it maybe makes it more difficult.”
Bain appointed Grayson due to the latter’s experience in the Championship, and while a leaking defence and a long run without a win have put the Black Cats boss under pressure, the Chief Executive suggested he retains faith in his approach and commitment.
He said: “From Simon’s perspective, he is looking at things exactly the same way I am, we both a job to do and a responsibility to the fans. Every day we come here, we work extremely hard to make sure we do the best for everybody.
“When I work with managers, I know the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis,” he added.
“If there isn’t a determination there – whether it’s from a manager or someone who works in the ticket office – I don’t think they should be working at the football club.
“When you see the hard work, determination and endeavour that Simon and we all bring to the party, for me that’s a tick.
“I came into a difficult environment here myself. I met Simon and offered him the role and Simon was delighted to take the role. He came to the football club knowing what he had to handle because I’m a transparent guy.
"With all the managers I’ve worked with there’s no point getting someone to the football club and not telling them what the issues are. Simon’s come to a fantastic football club with a wonderful stadium, a great fanbase and a fantastic training facility and he has the determination to succeed and I have that in abundance as well.”
Bain was speaking at the first Sunderland ‘fanfest’, an initiative designed to help build the club’s community presence.
He met with a cohort of supporters last week and intends to continue doing so in the near future amid significant unrest and anger at the club's plight.
The Chief Executive knows results on the field are crucial to improving the mood on Wearside but insists the thought of dropping to the third tier is not something concerning him at the moment.
He said: “It’s not even a word [relegation] that’s discussed internally, its not something that is front of our minds, that we could be going down rather than up. It’s evident in some of the performances we’ve seen lately, not all of them admittedly, that there are some green shoots, that we are starting to gel, you saw that in the first half on Saturday.
“Simon will talk about the game rather than me obviously, it was disappointing on Saturday that we drew the way we did, that we were left feeling that it was a loss in many ways. But from my perspective I have absolute assurance that everybody in here has a belief that we will turn things around and climb the table.”
Bain has faced criticism since his arrival on Wearside as the club undergoes a period of change behind the scenes, but the Black Cats chief says he is relishing the challenge of turning the club around and believes he has the skills to do so.
He said: "I was hired because of the background I have in football, I’ve dealt with one or two challenges myself. The fans that I met when I came here, as well as other people, told me that there were fundamental things that had to change. People told me had lost its identity, that it didn’t have that communication and fan engagement, we have worked extremely at that.
"Today’s event, which we hope will be an annual thing, is part of that. Its a tight knit community and we want to engage. Myself, Simon, Lee and John met with a supporters group last week, we’ve got another one this week. I see it as trying to address the challenges that people said needed to be addressed.
"I came down here years ago with Alex McLeish years ago to look at a player – I can't remember who – and the Stadium of Light was absolutely bouncing," he added.
"We went back to Scotland that night talking about the football club. I remember right from the moment we came through the front door of the stadium being impressed with the setup.
"I've been in the Stadium of Light when it is rocking.
"I watched on TV from the Middle East when I knew I was coming here, the night I stayed up, and I can still remember going for a walk afterwards and thinking to myself that I'd made the right decision.
"If I was working with people who I felt weren't prepared to take on the challenge, didn't have the club's interests at heart, and weren't ready to take on the challenge, then I would have an issue with that," he added.
"But we have a core team of people here and fundamentally the majority of them are from this area, and they go home on a night, talk to their neighbours, go for a drink – they face the same challenges, just in a different way that I do.
"I was asked [whether I an enjoy it] by a lady at the supporters night, and I said it was easy to enjoy your job when you work with nice people.
"People in the North-East are similar to us Scots, a similar kind of humour, similar background.
"You can look at the football club and say 'yes, it has got many challenges', but if I didn't think we could continue to improve then that would be something to think about.
"But I genuinely come in here every day believing that we can turn this club around."