Week six in the Big Bother House and Sheffield United are coming to town. Both sides are still settling in to their new surroundings, with Chris Wilder’s men taking advantage of their three home games out of the five so far.
At this stage of the season, these small advantages can make a big difference.
It’s still too early to get too worried by league position at the moment but the one thing that is of concern is the starts made by teams who didn’t perform well last season. The likes of Cardiff, Ipswich, Wolves, Nottingham Forest and newly-promoted United have all made promising starts to the campaign. Ally that with a few of last season’s high fliers, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Fulham and Norwich, still waiting to hit their stride, it makes taking three points this Saturday a real must.
The three players that came in before transfer deadline last week were probably as important as any cluster of signings in any recent window. The break in games could have had a negative effect, giving more time to dwell on the Barnsley defeat but the boost given to everyone by the new faces could prove invaluable.
On paper, all three signings look like astute acquisitions by Grayson. Being signed more than once by Tony Pulis in the Premier League isn’t a bad stamp of approval for a defender to have and Marc Wilson is going to add a certain amount of resilience to any defence. And at 30, still looks to have plenty of football in him.
In Callum McManaman, Grayson has added genuine pace to his squad, something that has been lacking for some time. His career stalled at West Brom but he is someone who can reignite his career at the Stadium of Light.
Like most of us, McManaman came to my attention after his mistimed challenge on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara and the subsequent unjust witch hunt of him that followed. Not that will be held against him here of course and will start his Sunderland account off in credit before he has even kicked a ball.
The one signing that excites me the most is that of Jonny Williams. Attacking options, or ones that pose significant danger to the opposition, has so far been restricted to feeding the ball to Aiden McGeady and whilst McManaman provides more pace, the energy of Williams will be just as welcome.
He’s a front foot type of player whose enthusiasm works both ways. With the ball he does the one thing any defending player hates and that’s being direct in one v ones. His bursts forward with the ball commits players, drawing fouls and rash reactions.
So given the financial constraints put on Grayson and the club in general right now, credit should be given to them for pulling off these deals. It did feel as if the rebuilding of the squad had now began in earnest and over the next three months we’ll see the squad evolve further still.
That said, I had prepared myself for lots of outgoings and few arrivals and to be honest, it wasn’t a situation that caused me much anxiety.
I’d pictured the squad being stripped down to a point where there would have been no other option but to have delved into the pool of players who have been developed by the club.
It would have been an interesting test of where the club’s academy really is at in terms of the standard of player being produced. The real and only test of whether a player is good enough is if they actually get the chance to prove it. Sadly, not many players do.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have been the best scenario all round, as blooding players in tough circumstances can also have a detrimental effect on them, but I like the idea of a backs against the wall scenario, where a squad depleted by departures and injuries meant that a bunch of young players would be thrown in at the deep end together.
Of course it might go horribly wrong but hypothetically, the romantic in me sees the result of heroes being made, the forming a real bond with the fans again and the vision of Simon Grayson crying as John O’Shea lifts the Championship Play-off trophy above his head, looking back at the rest of his players like a proud dad looking at his kids at graduation.
I think this talk of positivity has gone to my head. It won’t hurt for one week though, will it?