Simon Grayson on Jack Rodwell, making Lamine Kone captain and why Sunderland must be brave at home

Sunderland AFC 1-2 Sheffield United FC. Stadium of Light 09-09-2017.  Picture by FRANK REID
Sunderland AFC 1-2 Sheffield United FC. Stadium of Light 09-09-2017. Picture by FRANK REID
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Jack Rodwell has been given a clean slate this season, according to manager Simon Grayson.

The midfielder scored on his first competitive appearance of the season but was intermittently booed by the home support after struggling to impress over a number of seasons.

Grayson says he has been impressed with the 26-year-old and wants him to express himself on the field.

“For myself, the staff, Jack himself – that was his debut today. People might have questioned why we played him but we felt he played well in the EFL Trophy game, he’s trained well,” he said.

“I see these players every day and I said to Jack, whatever’s happened has happened. It’s in the past, this is a new start for you and hopefully people will give you that time to let you express yourself because you’re a good footballer.

“He did all right, but there were a lot of players who did all right.

“I don’t like to see individuals being picked out because he’s one of all the group that care, that we’re involved in at this moment in time.”

The Black Cats boss sprung a number of surprises on Saturday afternoon, opting for a back five and giving Lamine Kone the captain’s armband.

Grayson explained the logic behind that decision but said he wants all of his players to show leadership qualities.

“I haven’t had time to assess [Kone’s injury]. He was probably the most experienced player out on the pitch in the group.

“I like centre-halves or midfielder to have it, players who can see the whole situation.

“He’s been there and done it.

“They all should be captains, even when you’ve not got the armband, you make sure you lead by example as well.”

The 2-1 defeat was marked by fan ire, with few of the near 30,000 in attendance still around to witness Jack Rodwell’s consolation goal at the beginning of stoppage time.

It means Sunderland have still not won at home since beating Watford 1-0 in December 2016, and Grayson has admitted that his side have a confidence issue playing in front of their own fans.

He insists his players are not fearful of the Stadium of Light, however, and has called on them to show bravery and perform, beginning against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night.

Grayson added that fan frustration is perfectly understandable after years of poor showings.

“I will give them [the fans] an honest opinion on a daily basis. If people speak to me, I’ll tell them how I think it is,” he said.

“I’m not going to hide behind the fact of saying everything’s all right, I do understand that frustration from the fans.

“It’s not just this year, it goes back a long way and we have to do whatever is required to get over that obstacle that’s in the way of this group of players and the supporters as well.

“I’ll say ‘give us a chance’ and they have done,” he added.

“They’re entitled to their opinion, I don’t think it’s a situation where players are quaking in their boots [about playing in front of SOL].

“Ultimately they’ve got to make sure they don’t let supporters see that they’re affected by the negativity.

“They have to show they can be brave, and earn their money.”