Sunderland have lacked identity for too long - Martin Bain and Ellis Short must now deliver an energising appointment
Sunderland have sacked many managers in recent times but none were quite as brutal as this.
Barely half an hour passed from the final whistle being blown on another disappointing evening before the club announced the departure of Simon Grayson and his assistant Glynn Snodin.
Much of what had happened at the Stadium of Light had felt like the final roll of the dice.
The Black Cats boss again changed his goalkeeper, again altered his defence and finally threw his two quality wingers, Callum McManaman and Aiden McGeady, onto the pitch from the start.
At half-time, with parity restored but with much still to be done, Jonny Williams was hooked and James Vaughan was thrown up front.
There was a resurgence of sorts, but the same defensive errors and atrocious lapses which came to define Grayson’s short spell on Wearside were never far away.
Though this game offered a slight improvement in terms of the result, so many of the deflating, frustrating themes of the season so far were present.
Bolton Wanderers offered precious little but were gifted goals, and too often it was unclear how Sunderland were trying to break them down in attack.
Simon Grayson always said his Sunderland side would have no ‘set way of playing’, and while pragmatism has underpinned his success in the lower leagues, on Wearside the lack of direction and identity was an achilles heel.
What the former Preston boss did in the transfer market on precious little investment was impressive, and another two goals here from the exemplary Lewis Grabban embodied that.
What Grayson was never able to do was to put them together in a cohesive unit capable of building a consistent set of results.
While the plan off the field was clear, changing the culture, building a hungrier squad and putting the club back ‘on an even keel’, on it there was no such clarity.
The bigger question now is where Sunderland go from here.
Simon Grayson was the the second appointment made under the direction of Martin Bain, though David Moyes was long courted by Ellis Short, and neither were able to build significant bridges to the suffering support or show any credible signs of stemming the problems on the pitch.
Quite simply, the direction and decision making from above the manager has not been good or inventive enough for far too long, and Grayson’s failure is theirs.
Now, Short and Bain face up to a decision of quite monumental magnitude.
First and foremost, they have to prevent the club dropping into the third tier of English football, a real possibility after another underwhelming display against the side bottom of the league.
Secondly, they have to make an appointment that will energise a support that has quite rightly lost faith in their ability to move the club forward.
Given the way key targets gave short shrift to the idea of taking the job in the summer, that is no easy task.
The two options seem likely to be given the role to a figure closely associated with the club and its support, or roll the dice as Drumaville did with Roy Keane the last time Sunderland found themselves rattling around the lower reaches of this division.
What they simply cannot do is opt for an underwhelming, uninspiring choice on the principles of experience and stability. New ideas and new energy is neeed and badly.
Like David Moyes before him, Simon Grayson did not do enough with the players at his disposal, but his part in this mess is ultimately relatively minute.
The Black Cats are at a low ebb, a crossroads in their history. It is time for those at the top to deliver an appointment worthy of this great support.
Time is ticking.