Sunderland Echo - - Front Page - By Richard Men­n­ear­n­ Twit­ter: @RichMen­n­earJP

Two thirds of sup­port­ers want to see a change of own­er­ship at Sun­der­land – with fans point­ing to a lack of fund­ing in the sum­mer as a key rea­son be­hind the club’s strug­gles.

To­day we can re­veal the re­sults of our Big Sun­der­land AFC Sur­vey which asked fans for their views on a host of key is­sues.

Owner El­lis Short – who has been on the end of fan chants from the ter­races – comes in for crit­i­cism with the club spend­ing just £1.25mil­lion on new signings in the sum­mer.

Sun­der­land, rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League last sea­son, are in real dan­ger of back-to-back rel­e­ga­tions with the club bot­tom of the Cham­pi­onship.

With Sun­der­land ship­ping on av­er­age two goals a game, the in­abil­ity to keep a clean sheet is a key fac­tor be­hind their strug­gles and ul­ti­mately Si­mon Grayson los­ing his job.

The York­shire­man, who took charge fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of David Moyes, lasted just 15 games – Grayson sacked within min­utes of the draw with Bolton Wan­der­ers.

That game saw Sun­der­land equal an English record for the long­est win­less streak on home soil, a record they will hold out­right if they fail to beat Mill­wall at the Sta­dium of Light.

With the club search­ing for their ninth man­ager in six years, we asked fans for their views. Big­gest fac­tor be­hind the dread­ful start?

Al­most a third of fans pointed the blame squarely at Short, chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Bain and the board with 29 per cent blam­ing the lack of in­vest­ment in the first team.

The last set of ac­counts – pub­lished be­fore the player sales this sum­mer – showed Sun­der­land to be £110mil­lion in debt.

And the £30mil­lion raised by the sale of Jor­dan Pick­ford has been used in part to pay money owed to other clubs for pre­vi­ous trans­fers, in­clud­ing the near £10mil­lion owed to In­ter Mi­lan af­ter the club lost their case re­gard­ing the loan of Ricky Al­varez.

The play­ers re­ceived 23 per cent of the vote with Grayson ac­count­ing for just seven per cent. De­spite the trou­bles on the pitch, three quar­ters of fans be­lieve the club will avoid rel­e­ga­tion. Si­mon Grayson’s ten­ure:

An over­whelm­ing 80 per cent were pleased Grayson had left, the ex-Black­pool and Leeds boss win­ning just one league game all sea­son.

Fans were di­vided though whether he should have been sacked sooner, with 50.7 per cent say­ing he should and 49.3 claim­ing not.

Fans pointed to the shock­ing de­fen­sive record, with 31 goals shipped in 16 games, and Grayson’s in­abil­ity to sort the de­fen­sive prob­lems as his worst qual­ity (44.8 per cent).

His tac­tics (26.9 per cent) and the con­stant tweak­ing of his team and sys­tem (14.3 per cent) also ran­kled with fans.

In terms of his best qual­ity, more than half (53 per cent) praised Grayson for his signings on such a limited bud­get, while he was also praised for giv­ing younger play­ers a chance (23.8 per cent) El­lis Short and Martin Bain:

We asked fans how they rated Short’s per­for­mance this year and 62 per cent said it was time for a change at Sun­der­land, with just 2.7 per cent sat­is­fied with the job he has done.

Short, in a rare in­ter­view, re­cently said he has the club’s best in­ter­ests at heart and while he said the club is not of­fi­cially for sale, he would con­sider any cred­i­ble bids for a takeover.

A lit­tle over half of fans in our sur­vey called for a change in the chief ex­ec­u­tive

of­fice (52.2 per cent) with 14 per cent con­tent with Bain’s per­for­mance this sea­son.

Bain is cur­rently lead­ing the search for a new man­ager, with the club’s hi­er­ar­chy fully aware of the need to get this ap­point­ment right. Jan­uary plans and ar­eas to strengthen?

Funds are clearly limited at Sun­der­land but 85 per cent of fans want to see £5mil­lion plus spent in Jan­uary to im­prove the squad.

Fans were clear which area needs to be strength­ened most, with 59 per cent call­ing for re­in­force­ments in cen­tral de­fence and 15 per cent in mid­field.

Adding pace (25%) and young hun­gry play­ers (27%) is seen as key, with ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers with Cham­pi­onship qual­ity the pri­or­ity (35%) in Jan­uary. Should Sun­der­land con­sider clos­ing the top tier of the Sta­dium of Light for home games to boost the at­mos­phere? Seven out of 10 Sun­der­land fans be­lieve the club should con­sider clos­ing the top tier for home games. With at­ten­dances dwin­dling there have been sug­ges­tions in some quar­ters that it would help boost the at­mos­phere at home games.

Mean­while, 32 per cent of fans were op­posed. Best and worst sign­ing?

There was no sur­prise when it came to who fans voted as the best sum­mer sign­ing – with top goalscorer Lewis Grab­ban lead­ing the way with eight goals in 13 games.

Grab­ban won 58 per cent of the vote, with Ai­den McGeady sec­ond with 34 per cent.

Ja­son Steele has not won over the Sun­der­land fan­base with a se­ries of un­con­vinc­ing dis­plays in goal and 48.3 per cent voted him Sun­der­land’s worst sign­ing this sea­son.

Ever­ton loa­nee Bren­dan Gal­loway was sec­ond with 26.1 per cent of the vote and James Vaughan third with 13.2 per cent. Who should be num­ber one? Which young­ster de­serves more game time? Given Steele was voted the worst sign­ing of the sum­mer per­haps it should come as no sur­prise to see an over­whelm­ing 90 per cent of sup­port­ers that took part in our sur­vey want­ing to see Rob­bin Ruit­ter firmly es­tab­lish him­self as the club’s No.1 keeper.

An­other key fac­tor in Grayson’s down­fall was his con­stant chop­ping and chang­ing in goal.

Striker Josh Maja (28%), who hasn’t played this term be­cause of a knee in­jury, and Lyn­den Gooch (25%) are the two younger play­ers that fans want to see more of be­tween now and May.

Sun­der­land AFC owner El­lis Short casts an eye over pro­ceed­ings at the Sta­dium of Light.

Si­mon Grayson turns to walk down the tun­nel af­ter the Bolton game, only to find out he’d been sacked.

Rated: Sum­mer sign­ing Lewis Grab­ban.

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