Simon Grayson on his future, Martin Bain and where this Sunderland squad should be in the Championship
It has the feeling of a crucial 11 days for Simon Grayson and Sunderland.
Tomorrow brings an away game, which have been generally kinder to the Black Cats this season, at a side – Brentford – who have made a similarly sluggish start.
Then two games on Wearside, the first against a talented and thriving Bristol City, the second against a Bolton Wanderers side seemingly doomed for the drop.
The consequences of not securing positive results could be significant for Sunderland, with a derby at Middlesbrough and an international break to follow.
Chief executive Martin Bain, now the key presence in the Sunderland hierarchy, showed last season that he is not minded to dismiss managers and Grayson believes he retains his full support, and believes that to be more important than the recent history of the club, a revolving door of hitherto successful managers.
The manager said: “I think what’s happened in the past is the past. It’s what people decide in the future that matters.
“I’ve worked at Leeds, where it has been a volatile club, gone through difficult stages and come through that.
“You have to keep that belief in your staff and yourself.
“If the players are moping around and disagreeing with everything then you know you’ve got a tough job, but that isn’t the vibe around this training ground.
“Somebody said to me the other day it’s the best vibe they’ve seen in years. That’s a reflection of the players and why I think, ultimately, it will turn around.”
Grayson added: “You’ve got have a good relationship with your chief executive, and Martin and I certainly do.
“I think he’s the first to admit that we’re both in this together – he’s employed me, I’ve come to work for the club – and we’re working so hard to achieve what we all want, getting results and getting further up the table, which we should be doing.”
Grayson did concede that his squad, down in 23rd place in the Championship, is vastly underperforming, suggesting that he has the quality available to compete at the top end of the table.
He said: “When they’re all fit and able to be ready to be called upon, I think it’s as good as many of the teams in the top eight in terms of the strength in depth.
“When you look at our attacking options, when they’re all available, if you end up with the team that finished the game last week – McManaman, McGeady, Williams, Grabban – that’s exciting as any team in this division.
“Add to that Vaughan, Watmore and others, it’s a good squad to have.
“We just haven’t been able to put it all together at the right time. It’s no coincidence that, at the start of the season, when we picked the same team for four games we had a good run, because you develop those partnerships and understanding of people’s roles.
“I think the responsibility is both mine and the players.
“In the lead-up to games, me and my staff do a lot of work analysing the opposition and making sure our players have the information they need to help them go out and win the game.
“Then, really, it’s their responsibility to carry out the actions we have asked them to.
“Any manager will tell you that they prep their players as best they can, but if someone makes a mistake then there is little a manager can do about that.
“You pick a team and you are responsible for that, but also sometimes your hands are tied by what you have available.
“People questioned last week why Billy Jones played centre-half. Well, he was the best option available to get us a back four out on the day.
“It was very much a horses-for-courses team we had to pick.
“But we all have to take responsibility because we all want to get results for this football club, and we all care passionately about it.”
With the gap to mid-table widening and the unrest outside the club understandably following suit, Grayson knows he needs those results sooner rather than later.