It’s fair to say that the last few seasons have not been easy for Sunderland fans.
After a few years of relative stability the club started to flirt with relegation, pulling off great escapes under Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce. After 10 consecutive years in the top flight the Black Cats threw away their Premier League status, finishing dead last under David Moyes.
Last season was not a happy one under Moyes. Various reports described the Scotsman as an ‘energy vampire’, draining the life and motivation out of the football club. Player morale suffered as time and again Moyes criticised the players and the owners of the club, absolving himself of all blame in the process.
That is not to say the former Everton and Man United manager did not inherit problems. The Sunderland squad was not Premier League quality and funds that were promised did not materialise, with chairman Ellis Short desperately trying to offload the club.
Unsettling times under Moyes
But Moyes spent the £30 million he received poorly, and despite the best efforts of players like Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford the former first division champions surrendered to relegation without much of a fight.
Suffice to say nobody was surprised when Moyes resigned in May. Sunderland took their time lining up a replacement, although perhaps there was a dirge of candidates; former player Michael Gray announced on twitter that he would take the job if nobody else wanted it.
Derek McInnes of Aberdeen was publicly courted before rejecting the North-East club, and there were media reports that Ryan Giggs was interested in the role. However last Saturday it was announced that Preston North End manager Simon Grayson had agreed to become the Black Cat’s new manager.
Grayson, a promotion specialist
Grayson is something of a specialist in gaining promotion to the Championship, having guided Blackpool, Leeds, Huddersfield Town and Preston up from League One.
He has so far been unable to repeat the trick and take a club to the Premier League, his highest finish 7th place in 2011.
Departures and targets
He faces a huge challenge to make Sunderland competitive next season. Defoe has joined Bournemouth on a free and Pickford has been sold for £25m to Everton.
The likes of Joleon Lescott, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar and Sebastian Larsson have been released, although they are unlikely to be missed by the club’s faithful. Fabio Borini has joined AC Milan on loan, with the deal likely to be made permanent at the end of the season.
Brendan Galloway has joined on loan from Everton, with teammate Tyias Browning set to follow. Despite the Pickford fee Grayson is unlikely to have a huge amount of funds to spend, with the loan market and free agents to be heavily relied on.
Firepower is a priority, with Max Gradel and Dean Hugill reportedly big targets. West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass is a possibility, but with a few clubs interested the Wearside outfit are likely to be priced out of a move.
Knows how to work with very little
Grayson has shown an ability to work with little and get on with the job in hand at his previous clubs, and until new ownership are installed Sunderland will be unlikely to press for automatic promotion, particularly with the competition so fierce at the top end of the Championship.
The mood around Sunderland certainly seems a little brighter these days, and they will hope to emulate their neighbours and fierce rivals in returning to the Premier League sooner rather than later.
They need only look at previous Premier League stalwarts Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Leeds among others to see how hard it is to bounce back.
Written by Matthew Robson
Follow Matthew on Twitter @TheRobsonator93
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