Will Grigg opens up on his major long term Sunderland ambitions, that fee and why he can make instant impact for Jack Ross
Hours after finally signing Will Grigg, Stewart Donald tweeted a fan.
Not surprisingly, questions were being asked about the fee.
‘I hope it gets to £4 million’, Donald said.
‘Because then we’ll be playing football in the Premier League’.
It seems a long way off at the moment but why not? From day one, Sunderland’s recruitment philosophy under Jack Ross has been about marrying the need to get out of League One with signing players who can grow with the club.
No one sums that up better than Grigg.
He is, without doubt, the best League One striker of recent times.
If you want the goals to get you back into the Championship, the 27-year-old is your man.
Signing a three-and-half-a-year deal with Sunderland, however, is a clear sign from both parties that his needs to be a productive partnership in the long term, too.
His second-tier record is mixed but there are reasons for that. This season he was quickly dropped when injuries to creative players saw Wigan boss Paul Cook take on a far more pragmatic approach.
In his last season he started off in great form before the team’s results went into rapid decline. Then came the first serious injury of his career, keeping him out for a number of months.
Grigg arrives on Wearside eager to back up his title as the best striker in league One but there are bigger ambitions, too.
“People give you that label and that’s absolutely fine,” he said.
“I think anyone who has played with me and staff who have worked with me, they know that I can score goals at any level.
“I don’t think you get to a level and then stop being able to score goals, I don’t think that’s the case at all.
“I’ve left Wigan as the top goalscorer, four in ten starts. That’s not a bad stat.
“I know I can do it, it’s as simple as that.
“My first season in the Championship, I think I was on five goals and then I had my first serious injury.
“I haven’t been blessed with the best of luck in that sense and it is something in the back of my mind that I want to prove. Not to everyone else, but just to myself.
“I know I can do it and one day I’m sure I’ll prove it.
“The short term goal is promotion out of this league but the vision that everyone here has, the owner and everyone at the club, is to get the club back to where it deserves to be,” he added.
“It’s got the training ground and everything, the fanbase, the facilities to do that.
“The Championship, when it comes it comes, but it’s something I want to do. If I didn’t think I could do it I wouldn’t be here. It’s something I want to prove.”
In the short term, Grigg’s arrival is timely as Sunderland look to revive their attacking fluidity.
That promotion to the Championship at the first time of asking is anything but a given as Luton Town and Barnsley maintain their impressive form.
They have scored in every league game this season but in recent times it has invariably been one per game.
Against AFC Wimbledon, they registered just two shots on target even in victory.
For Jack Ross there is at least one fairly obvious factor in that.
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They have rarely had an orthodox striker to lead the line this season and it has ben noticebale how often the wide players in his side have got into dangerous areas but not had the target they need in the box.
Watching on last weekend, Grigg hopes to be that player.
“There’s some real quality throughout the team, especially in the wide areas and midfield,” he said.
“It’s something that I’m hoping to do, the guys have great delivery. I’ve always said that if the balls are coming into the box, I’ll be able to get on the end of it and then it’ll be up to me to do the rest.
“If they deliver like they can, there’ll be no problem.
“I’ve always played in a 4-2-3-1. That’s exactly what Jack [Ross] has been playing so maybe that was a little factor in the recruitment side of things.
“We always played that at Wigan, under both Gary Caldwell and Paul Cook, so it’s always been the case, even at MK Dons. I should hopefully be able to slot in quite nicely.
“The way Jack wants to play, he wants us to create chances and give the front four a lot of freedom. It’s a system that works perfectly for me so if I can get on the end of chances, job done.”
Grigg’s arrival was one of the major headlines on an otherwise quiet deadline day.
That fee will undoubtedly continue to draw attention, in the coming months this season and well into the future.
It is over double the next highest in League One history.
Even if strikers have always come at a premium, only the move that brought Grigg to Wigan in the first place, and Britt Assombalonga’s move to Peterborough United in 2013, come close.
Grigg, like all of the players Ross has brought in, is grounded and amiable.
What he also has is the unmistakable drive of any goalscorer. You don’t expect him to wilt under the pressure.
“It’s a label that’s going to be there,” he says.
“It’ll be a headline but at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect me. It’ll always be like that.
“When I signed for Wigan I was ‘the £1 million player’ and all that sort of stuff. It’s just one of those things, my job is to score goals and help the team. It’s not something that will affect me.
“It depends when kind of person you are, but everyone did their homework on me [here], I’m a confident player and things like that don’t affect me.
“I’ve played at international level and in big games, I’m a professional footballer, my job is to be done on the pitch and all the other stuff I try and stay away from.
“It all comes with pressure but I’ve been under pressure at every club I’ve been at. I’ve always been the number nine and that brings pressure. It’s what I’m here for, in the short term to get promoted and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
He remains on course to play some part against Oxford United on Saturday.
He has been off the grass for over a fotnight so there are no bold statements about what will come next.
Even, then, though, there is a glimpse of the expectations Grigg puts on himself.
“I always seem to like this sort of end of season period,” he said.
“A lot of my goals to do seem to come from January onwards. I just want as many as possible to help the team.
“I think we’ve got 18 games left], so the aim would be ten and we’ll go from there.
“At the moment it’s just about getting out there and seeing what I can do.”
The anticipation on Wearside is high.