Simon Grayson must stop talking about relegation '“ and why stay-away fans should save us the sermon

There should be an element of sympathy for a manager in post-match interviews after a defeat or, as in Sunderland's case, after yet another defeat.

Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:54 am
Sunderland manager Simon Grayson.

If he attempts an upbeat approach, he will be accused of a failure to address reality; whereas admitting that things are terrible will result in his beration for talking down the club further still.

Whatever he says will be wrong.

Yet even within these constraints, I can’t help but feel that Simon Grayson could have done better after the Cardiff game on Saturday.

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Under the circumstances, no one expected him to curvet into the press conferences, grinning like Jack Rodwell’s agent and playing Walking On Sunshine on the accordion. But there is a happy medium.

What he said on Saturday was: “No team is too good to go down. That’s without a question.”

Is it cruel of me to point out that that is demonstrably untrue (presumably he meant “big” rather than “good”)?

He continued: “Leeds United, Notts Forest (sic) and Man City have all been in League One at times. So we know as individuals and collectively that we’re not too good to go down.

“But we’re not thinking about that.”

Sorry, but he clearly is thinking about that. We know this because the question he was responding to, with this glaring Freudian slip, was about him having a message for the fans. It was not a specific question about whether or not Sunderland are in a relegation battle.

Telling people not to think about relegation is like telling them not to think about the colour red. They will immediately fail to do so.

A solution to all that festers at the Stadium of Light will not be easy to locate. But we know from recent experience that a manager exuding even more negativity does not help. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If Mr Grayson is asked an awkward question at Preston this weekend, he should simply answer a question he would have preferred.

Sidestep the issue. Don’t say what people dislike hearing, even if they know it’s true. Keep those thoughts to yourself.

Why not? It’s what every politician on the planet does. Perhaps Sunderland needs a spin doctor.

But negativity has virtually become the club’s modus vivendi in the last 16 months and, however understandable, it has obviously not helped.

It isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned it. That’s because it won’t go away.

Sunderland’s away form this season has been generally mediocre. At home they have been appalling. They have scored three goals: two penalties and a largely irrelevant consolation against Sheffield United. It will now be a minimum of 10 months between home wins.

I won’t pretend to have a certain remedy to this; although I respectfully suggest that fielding five defenders and two defensive midfielders is not the answer.

No matter how bad things are, in professional sport it is essential to be positive. Go to Preston and get at ‘em. If it doesn’t work then try it again against QPR.

There is one good thing about the season so far. The people who said: “Relegation would do the club good” must surely have abandoned that doolally notion by now.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Sunderland will be relegated; although it’s bad enough that that’s the limit of my optimism.

When life’s achievers say during the bad times that “we must remain positive,” they mean it. It isn’t just something they’ve read on the back of a matchbox.


The official attendance for Sunderland’s last home game was 25,733. So I wonder how many people were there.

Dwindling gates are no surprise. The next home win will be at least 301 days after the previous one, during which time Sunderland have not once even taken the lead at the Stadium of Light.

I don’t blame anyone for saving their money.

What irritates is the slightly preachy tone of some of the stay-aways as they dress up their lack of desire to watch Sunderland as some sort of political philosophy.

You can pretend that ceasing to attend games is a statement to the board and done with the best interests of club at heart. But no one believes you.

People don’t buy tickets for Sunderland for the same reason that they don’t buy any other product: because they don’t like it. They aren’t doing anything clever or worthy any more than I am when I decline to buy tinned tomatoes.

So please spare us the sermons. Leave us alone. Some of us just like match days; even if the actual football is rubbish. Moaning is about my only pleasure these days.

I don’t mind people who have no interest in football at all.

It’s the ones who have no interest in football and thereby expect admiration and applause who strangle my petunias.