Where does Celtic drubbing leave Sunderland and Simon Grayson ahead of the new season?

Celtic were too strong as they won the Dafabet Cup on Saturday.
Celtic were too strong as they won the Dafabet Cup on Saturday.
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We’re approaching the anniversary of David Moyes’ first competitive game in charge, an evening when the team news dropped and fans found themselves with nothing to say but, ‘Again? Really?’.

Players out of position, youngsters thrown in at the deep end. Another summer wasted, another team thoroughly unprepared for the season ahead.

Grayson said the defeat was a 'kick up the backside'

Grayson said the defeat was a 'kick up the backside'

Sunderland performed fairly well in the end, but the campaign quickly imploded from there.

Those who got their first glimpse of Simon Grayson’s Sunderland on Saturday afternoon could have been forgiven for thinking the same thing.

This side did not look like one ready for the challenges of a Championship season.

The picture is not quite as dire as it looked at the Stadium of Light, even if the concerns have to be substantial.

There have been times in the pre-season campaign when the Black Cats have looked a good side going forward, particularly how they have counter-attacked through Jeremain Lens and Wahbi Khazri down the flanks.

As Lewis Grabban and Aiden McGeady edge towards fitness, they can bring if not the same quality as those two but at least an attacking threat.

Grayson, too, will not be forced to pick players out of position next Friday, and most combinations across the park will have had time playing together in the preceding weeks.

Perhaps the severe jolt this defeat brings will concentrate minds in the weeks ahead, perhaps we will see a ‘different animal’, as Grayson hopes, on Friday night.

It will have to be.

B team or not, Brendan Rodgers has taken Celtic to another level and the Black Cats will not face many sides this season so technically proficient with the ball.

Derby County have lost Tom Ince and Will Hughes this summer, their incoming transfer business underwhelming.

They will not offer the same threat but under Gary Rowett what they will bring is an appetite to absorb pressure and break quickly when they do get the ball.

If Sunderland do not improve their defensive application and shape they will be picked off on the counter, and it will happen again at Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday and against Leeds.

The defence is, five days out from the start of the season, by far the biggest concern for Grayson.

Being hard to beat is his calling card but at the moment communication and organisation seems to be lacking. Most worrying is that the capacity to collapse after conceding remains, seen not just on Saturday but also in an even worse display at St Johnstone.

Where Grayson goes with his back four on Friday is a mystery.

At full-back, where Sunderland are overloaded, no one has held their hand up and demanded a place. With Bryan Oviedo still returning to fitness, it seems likely that Billy Jones and Brendan Galloway will get the nod. They will have to improve.

At centre-back, Lamine Kone looks to be unselectable. Fatigue may have been a factor in his dreadful performance against Celtic but it is an explanation that can only go so far. For too long now the defender has simply not done the basics well enough.

Papy Djilobodji impressed in his early pre-season showings but looked unreliable again against Bradford.

Another season where the manager will have to turn to John O’Shea in the hope that he can hold things together, alongside the unproven – if impressive – Tyias Browning.

Question marks, too, over the goalkeeping spot. Many will be hoping to see Robbin Ruiter holding a scarf on Sunderland’s social media channels at some stage before 7.45 on Friday night.

The nature of this defeat, as well as the video footage that followed on Sunday, has also had the effect of quickly ebbing away at the traditional pre-season optimism.

The protracted search for a manager and eventually aborted takeover talks made this feel like a summer that never started.

The wounds from the relegation season are still raw.

For the most part, this is a fanbase willing to accept that their club is entering a period of transition, that there is no quick fix and that Simon Grayson has a difficult balance to improve the side while cutting the financial cost of the the squad.

He has promised hard work, a team built in the image of the city, and if he delivers that starting Friday he will get patience.

This acrimonious weekend will also be, if not forgotten, then at least largely forgiven if the faults are corrected in the opening month of the season.

These pre-season home friendlies were brought back to allow the team to get accustomed to playing in the Stadium of Light, and to allow the possibility of early season games to be played at home.

To David Moyes, it was one reason why Sunderland’s August record has been so poor.

When Derby arrive on Friday night, there will be an element of excitement but tension, too.

Grayson has made all right noises since arriving on Wearside, but the size of the task at hand will have truly dawned on him now.

For a concerned fanbase, these failings were all too familiar.