One year on, will Martin Bain be forced to choose between ‘stability’ and managerial change again?

Martin Bain and Simon Grayson
Martin Bain and Simon Grayson
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It seems remarkable that one year on, with a player turnover of around 30 players, yet another new face in the dug-out and a different division, that the conversations are much the same.

Can Sunderland really lose another manager? Who would they get instead?

SAFC 2017 Fan Fest Stadium of Light.  Picture by FRANK REID

SAFC 2017 Fan Fest Stadium of Light. Picture by FRANK REID

On the flip side, what good is stability if it means a protracted relegation fight?

The arguments now are much the same as those that punctuated Sunderland’s final, acrimonious season in the Premier League.

Almost 12 months on, chief executive Martin Bain found himself fielding the same questions as he had done last December, when he had described himself ‘lucky’ to have David Moyes at the helm.

This time, he was more guarded.

He retains belief in Simon Grayson, the pair still wedded to the summer strategy of bringing in players who they felt would ‘get’ the club, coming to Wearside not for the financial riches of the Premier League or its parachute payments but to revive their flagging careers.

Grayson was seen as a prime candidate to help them on that road, building a reputation for constructing resilient, hard-running teams with a British core.

Thirteen games in, the jury is out on some of those signings and many of the themes from the last campaign – basic defensive errors, a chronic lack of confidence – have carried over.

Bain offered his support to his manager, but it was not unequivocal and ahead of two crucial home games it was hard not see that as significant.

It is true that when he spoke about Moyes, the Sunderland boss was in a position of strength given that he secured three wins in quick succession and there were tentative hopes that the Black Cats could finally be about ‘to break the wheel’.

That came to be sadly misguided and financial implications aside, those on Wearside could come to rue the decision not to change for many years to come.

The end result was a relegation that pushes financial and football stability far further away, the manager deciding to leave anyway.

In the profile of player being pursued, Grayson was a logical choice to pick up the pieces from Moyes’ departure, as Derek McInnes and to a slightly lesser extent, Garry Monk, would have been.

Bain remains a rare chief executive who sees firing managers as a last resort, his experience with Walter Smith, a ‘Fergie-esque’ figure at Rangers, seemingly a formative experience.

Little surprise, then, that he was keen to stress that it is still only October when asked about the potentially damaging consequences of a season where the prospect of the play-offs is all but written off by the new year.

Still, we are fast approaching a crucial juncture, whereby if Sunderland cannot lift themselves from their slumber, Bain’s desire for a top six challenge will be set against the reality of a vastly underperforming squad unable to achieve it.

If that happens, would the affect on fan morale push ‘stability’ even further into the distance?

For now, Grayson and Bain are determined to hold their nerve, in the belief that the ‘green shoots’ will soon translate into results that will make such a discussion moot.