Sunderland manager Simon Grayson
Grayson took on, arguably, the toughest job in English football when he left Preston North End for Sunderland in June.
The Black Cats had just sunk out of the Premier League in embarrassing fashion; he inherited a squad bereft of confident and talent, and the club didn’t have two pennies to rub together in the transfer market.
It was – and remains – a daunting job.
But let’s not beat about the bush, Sunderland’s continued struggles are not entirely Grayson’s fault.
The 47-year-old has a poor squad that lacks genuine quality.
He boxed clever in the summer transfer window on a tight budget, bringing in experienced operators such as Aiden McGeady, Lewis Grabban, Callum McManaman and Marc Wilson.
Sunderland striker Lewis Grabban
But there’s still plenty of deadwood suffering a hangover from losing week-after-week in the Premier League last season, picking up their pay cheques.
Overturning a losing mentality doesn’t happen overnight, and to expect Grayson to have done that is foolish.
A number of teams have been relegated from the Premier League and immediately struggled in the Championship.
There’s no quick fix.
Returning Sunderland to the top-flight is a long-term project, and to ditch Grayson after a few months would be rash. Sacking him now would send out a message that the club got it badly wrong when it mattered.
Championship predicted table 2017/18 according to the BBC
Fri, August 4, 2017
Which side is tipped to win the Championship this season? Table provided by the BBC
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24. Burton Albion – 22.88
Crucially, as long as Ellis Short remains in ownership of the club they’re going to struggle to attract a replacement with as much Championship know-how as Grayson.
The 47-year-old is not completely devoid of blame because his team have made basic defensive errors – Sunderland’s record of 27 goals in 14 games is the joint-worst in the division.
It’s a massive game, but victory would be more than just three points.
It would lift the hoodoo of their winless home record in 2017, and for Sunderland chiefs it would give them reason to avoid hitting the panic button.