Simon Grayson has been talking about his time at Sunderland about everything from his relationship with Ellis Short to whether he believes we can stay up this season. He started by suggesting that he doesn’t feel the club is impossible to manage and the right man could succeed. “I don’t think it’s unmanageable, I think what it is it’s a big proposition for anybody to go and manage that football club because of the name, where it's been and the fan base. I went there because I saw it as a new challenge for me. I’d been at Preston for four and a half years and I saw this as a big opportunity to go to another big club. I did realise that there would be a lot of problems when I got there but I wanted to have those challenges in front of me. As you go into a job you occur other problems as you go along. It wasn’t an easy job and I suffered the consequences of not winning any matches and probably not being given enough time to turn it around. I think as a manager now you know that you are judged on your results and the results that we had weren’t good enough and a team like Sunderland shouldn’t be in the bottom three when I left them. Circumstances dictated that at times because we had a few injuries bur you can't use that as the only excuse. There was a lot of negativity around the place but we were slowly turning things around. If you talk to anybody at the training ground there was a vibe, there was a positivity around the place. What we found more difficult than I realised was trying to transfer that positivity from the training ground to the Stadium of Light where there’s been a lot of negativity and poor results over a number of years.”
He also spoke about the financial situation at the club but insists he has no regrets about taking on the job. “Well I knew that the basics were there would have to be players sold to finance the books and that just comes with the territory of a team being relegated from the Premier League. You have to do it for the finances but also players didn’t want to be there and it was going to be a turnaround of players leaving, new ones coming in, time to gel but I think you also need a couple of windows to really get the balance right within the squad. I knew we weren’t going to have money to spend but I’ve never had huge amounts of money to spend at clubs that I’ve worked at previously. We brought in 12 players for £1.2m and £50m was brought in through players sold from the football club. I knew there was never going to be lots of money so I was never going to complain about that. We paid some decent wages for loan players like Lewis Grabban, Marc Wilson and one or two other players came in. I thought we brought in some very talented players that would help the football club and one or two players coming back from injury were going to help us as well - Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore have just returned - so on paper we’ve got a decent squad there but it was trying to transfer that positivity from the training ground to the match-day situation but that was the most difficult thing to achieve. I had a real comfortable job at Preston, four and a half years there, but I saw it as the next step in my career with a real big challenge at a real big football club. Even now I don’t regret my decision to leave because I didn’t want to look back in four or five months time and say, 'I wish I’d taken that job'. I was excited by it and I did think and genuinely believe we would be able to turn round what had been a poor run of results and turn it into a positive situation.”
However, he did reveal that he only met owner Elis Short twice in all the time he was at the club. “Obviously I met him when I was interviewed for the job and the first game of the season after we drew with Derby and that was the last I heard from him or saw from him. He moved to America, I don’t think he has much in terms of day-to-day running of the club or watching the club. Martin Bain the chief executive, who I got on really well with, was the one that I spoke closely with on many occasions. I think he moved to America for family reasons and getting his business situation sorted. I have no issues with that because I was working very closely with Martin Bain but in his defence he’s put £250m into that football club and is still funding it now which is a hell of a lot of money for somebody to invest in a business. I think it’s been mismanaged for many different reasons and there’s been a lot of money wasted over the years in different areas of the football club and it comes to a point where it may be enough is enough for somebody when you have to keep financing the amount that he has.”
He also implored Sunderland to give Coleman time to succeed and says it he is at a loss to explain our managerial turnover.“It’s really hard to put your finger on it and there’s been some very good managers going back to Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy, Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Dick Advocaat, Gus Poyet, Sam Allardyce… the list is endless of top managers but nobody’s really been able to grasp hold of the football club and take it to a level that everybody demands up in the north east. The rivalry with Newcastle and the passionate supporters demand success but none of them managers who have been very good managers have been able to do it. I can’t give you a reason why that’s not happened for many managers. I think Chris has done a fantastic job for Wales and has decided he wants to get back into club management and he’ll have seen it exactly how I saw it when you get approach for the job - it’s a big football club and you feel you’re the right person to turn it around. I think the biggest thing that Chris will need now is time to be able to do that because it doesn’t just happen overnight. You cannot turn a football club around so quickly when it’s been through some dark stages and that’s what he’s going to need to make it a success again.”
Despite his limited budget Grayson is adamant that he wouldn’t begrudge Coleman being given more funds than him. “I wouldn’t have an idea on that but I think he’ll have his eyes open to what needs to be done at that football club. If he’s got assurances he’s got money to spend then great, if not then then he has to work with a group of players and wheel-and-deal in the market like a lot of managers have to do. I wouldn’t begrudge him but it’s football. I’d be a little bit envious at not being able to do that but time will tell whether he’s been given the finance to go and change the squad and develop his own style and philosophies.”
Lastly, he backed the players and the new manager to keep us up and can easily see why he has taken on the job. “I think looking from the outside he’ll know that there’s something is wrong somewhere because of where they are in the division. He’ll go in there, walk in at the training ground and see huge facilities - an absolutely brilliant venue to go and work everyday but it’s what happens on the grass that matters. Whenever he goes in he’ll have to get his teeth stuck in very quickly. They’ve got a game Tuesday night and obviously he’s going to try and get results very quickly. I’m sure he’s up for the challenge because if he wasn’t he would have waited for another job. I would think so. I always said when we were there and going through the spell that we were going through that time would allow the results to turn round. I had no disbelief with the group of players that I had we wouldn’t have been able to turn it around and I’m sure Chris will be thinking the same. My view hasn’t changed since I left the football club because I think there’s some talented players there.”
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