Positive first impressions but Sunderland and Simon Grayson face crucial month in transfer market

Chief executive Martin Bain and new Sunderland boss Simon Grayson. Picture by Frank Reid.
Chief executive Martin Bain and new Sunderland boss Simon Grayson. Picture by Frank Reid.
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“This is a massive club, a big attraction for anyone who knows anything about football.”

The weather outside the Stadium of Light may have had a bleak mid-winter feel about it, but Simon Grayson was a beacon of positivity inside.

The 47-year-old was officially unveiled to the media inside a suite on the third floor of the stadium on Friday afternoon and the former Preston North End boss impressed.

Grayson, flanked by chief executive Martin Bain, breezed through his first press conference as Sunderland boss.

There was no dampening of spirits, talking down the ambitions for the season or demoralising the players. Grayson was on the front foot and positive from the outset.

Born in Ripon, Grayson is a proud Yorkshireman and says it how it is.

He knows the size of the task facing him at Sunderland with the club in the doldrums following relegation from the Premier League.

But, judging by his first appearance in front of the cameras, he is more than up for the fight and determined to do all he can to get Sunderland back in the top flight, ideally at the first time of asking.

Sunderland fans are experienced enough to not judge any new boss straight away or hang all their hopes on his shoulders.

There have been too many disappointments in recent seasons for that. But so far, so good, for Grayson.

You got a clear sense of what it means to him to manage a club the size of Sunderland.

Time and results will ultimately prove whether Grayson is up to the task and it is fair to say his appointment wasn’t met with joy by every supporter.

But, in Grayson, Sunderland have secured a vastly experienced manager with a wealth of knowledge and contacts at this level of the game. Consistent and well respected.

He is also a winner, his CV proves that after gaining promotion from League One with all four clubs he has managed: Blackpool, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Preston.

Grayson has never been relegated in his managerial career but is also yet to taste promotion from the Championship.

That, though, is ultimately the reason he has been brought into Sunderland – to win promotion. So the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Sunderland won just six games in the Premier League last season – a miserable record – and Grayson’s career win percentage of around 43 per cent harbours hopes of better times to come.

It can’t get any worse after last season, surely?

Grayson spoke honestly and passionately about the task in hand at the Stadium of Light and the tradition and history of Sunderland.

He spoke in-depth of the need to give this proud city and the people and supporters a club to be proud of. As first impressions go, he seemed to “get” the club, fanbase and area.

Last year, David Moyes was positive in his first interviews, too, before famously admitting he thought the club would be involved in a relegation dogfight after only the second game.

He never won back some fans, his honesty too honest for some and Moyes was heavily criticised for not being more positive about the club and players.

Grayson is a straight-talking manager and he didn’t promise the world, nor did he undersell the club or the ambitions going forward. Striking the balance just right, Grayson has impressed many.

Now the hard work really begins as Sunderland plot their return to the Premier League.

As things stand, Grayson has a threadbare squad and needs upwards of at least eight to 10 new signings, including an entire new striking department.

He joked in his press conference about Sunderland playing a five-a-side team at Gigg Lane this Friday unless there is a breakthrough in the transfer market before then.

Speed is of the essence and Grayson has held in-depth discussions with Bain over transfer plans and targets ahead of what is set to be a manic few weeks on and off the pitch.

It was miserable outside when Grayson addressed the press, but fans are hoping for much brighter times ahead.

They can take comfort from the fact Grayson, as he was keen to point out, has always left his previous clubs in a better state than when he arrived. In Sunderland’s case, that would hopefully mean a speedy return to the top flight.

First impressions were good, but the proof will be in the pudding of his business in the transfer market and results in a fiercely competitive Championship.

Long-suffering fans wait with bated breath.