Simon Grayson hails 'fantastic' support and challenges Sunderland players to nail down first team place

Sunderland boss Simon Grayson.
Sunderland boss Simon Grayson.
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With Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford departing Sunderland this summer, a vacancy for a new terrace hero has opened up.

Lewis Grabban was among those to catch the eye in Friday's opening game, scoring from the penalty spot as Sunderland came from behind to draw 1-1 with Derby County.

The 29-year-old Bournemouth loanee got his Sunderland career off to the perfect start after taking over spot-kick duties from James Vaughan.

Winger Aiden McGeady, signed for a bargain £250,000 fee from Everton this summer, and Academy product George Honeyman also shone in the draw with Derby.

Simon Grayson hopes to have a squad full of fan favourites as the Black Cats look to bounce back from relegation - and he has challenged the 11 players that played the full 90 minutes against Derby to nail down their place in the side.

"We said to the players before the game you have the shirt, now make sure you have it for a long time," said Grayson, who was pleased with his side's start to life in the Championship.

"That is the basics of what the players need to do. If they play well, they keep the shirt.

"Fans will take to players if they work and score goals or make tackles or put their bodies on the line.

"Hopefully over the next few weeks we have a group of 20-odd players that the supporters will take an affiliation too."

Sunderland were under the glare of the national spotlight on Friday night after being selected to kick-off the new football season live on television.

After a difficult summer which saw David Moyes resign, takeover talks, a raft of incomings and outgoings plus the controversy over Darron Gibson's outburst, Grayson was pleased to get the opening game out of the way.

"There has been a lot made to the build-up to the season but that will be right the way through the football league," added Grayson.

"You are the first team in the shop window, if you like. We are under a lot of scrutiny for what has happened previously and this week but the first game is out of the way now.

"We have showed a lot of good characteristics that we expect the group to follow throughout the season."

Grayson was patrolling his technical area for the 90 minutes and he was pleased with the level of performance from his players, while also thanking the supporters.

"Yes I enjoyed it but I'm shattered now! I think I have kicked every ball," said Grayson.

"The biggest thing for me is you saw the players not get affected by the disappointment of conceding and the supporters were fully behind them.

"At times it felt like a real full house.

"As we go along we will get even more numbers and an even better atmosphere but the supporters were fantastic."