Poor Grayson’s just clear­ing up a mess

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

EL­LIS Short has been about as ben­e­fi­cial to the city of Sun­der­land as aus­ter­ity, ship­yard clo­sures and Alan Shearer. Ban­ners around the Sta­dium of Light at­test to that. So do vast tracts of empty red seats. In­ter­net fo­rums bub­ble with bile.

The man from Mis­souri bought the club in 2008, promis­ing reg­u­lar top-ten fin­ishes in the Premier League. He spoke about earn­ing the “re­spect” of op­po­nents. Of mak­ing Sun­der­land’s windswept fortress a place to fear.

Nine years on, it is merely a half-empty hulk of dis­con­tent and de­spon­dency. Dreams of Europe have become a bat­tle to avoid League One. Debts have tre­bled to £141m, an as­tound­ing achieve­ment in an era when top-flight clubs are swim­ming in cash.

De­te­ri­o­rated

Huge sums have been wasted on duds and mer­ce­nar­ies ut­terly bereft of heart, guts and re­spon­si­bil­ity. Man­agers jet­ti­soned willy-nilly.

So far has the fi­nan­cial de­te­ri­o­rated that Si­mon Grayson, ap­pointed in June, was given just £1.25m to spend on new play­ers. Only Barnsley, QPR, Bur­ton, Mill­wall and Bolton spent less.

Un­til Short sells up, thou­sands have vowed to stay away, un­will­ing to pour cash into the pock­ets of an owner whose sole aim now ap­pears to be claw­ing back a bad in­vest­ment.

The sit­u­a­tion is a mess, and a fourth straight de­feat at home to Not­ting­ham For­est on Tues­day night did noth­ing to soothe fes­ter­ing sores.

Yet, for all the calami­ties and cock-ups wrought by Short, the Amer­i­can would be fool­ish to lis­ten to sup­port­ers clam­our­ing for Grayson’s head. Re­sults are dire. Per­for­mances grim. The last three games have yielded a grand to­tal of four shots on tar­get. Frus­tra­tion is un­der­stand­able. But what did any­body ex­pect af­ter seven games? Grayson isn’t a ma­gi­cian. He in­her­ited a squad that was bat­tered on a weekly ba­sis for 12 months. A dress­ing room that – ac­cord­ing to the Black Cats’ own mid­fielder Darron Gib­son – was rid­dled with play­ers who “didn’t care”. Then he was given a mil­lion quid to dis­pel those demons, the equiv­a­lent of us­ing a dust­pan and brush to clean up af­ter Glas­ton­bury. Jose Mour­inho wouldn’t have done any­thing dif­fer­ent, other than bitch and moan. The facts are sim­ple. Sun­der­land are hae­m­or­rhag­ing money and have been for a num­ber of years. Short, who is owed £58m by the club, is no longer putting his hand in his pocket. The 56year-old owner knew a lengthy stay in the Cham­pi­onship was a pos­si­bil­ity – and Grayson was ap­pointed purely on that ba­sis.

The for­mer Pre­ston boss knows the divi­sion. He knows how to sign play­ers for a pit­tance. He knows how to cook up a pass­able dish from the basest of in­gre­di­ents.

He did it at Leeds, at Hud­der­s­field and Pre­ston. Given time and a cou­ple of trans­fer win­dows, the 47-year-old will do it again at Sun­der­land.

For Mack­ems, it stings to know your owner will set­tle for so­lid­ity. That be­ing a de­cent Cham­pi­onship team is the scope of his am­bi­tion. To many, Grayson is the em­blem of all Short’s bro­ken prom­ises.

Eye-wa­ter­ing

But that doesn’t mean he should carry the can. Sun­der­land are poor be­cause they’ve been ab­jectly gov­erned for a decade, not be­cause Grayson has lost four games. In fact, one of the rea­sons for those eye-wa­ter­ing debts were the pay-offs doled out to hastily sacked man­agers. That cy­cle needs to stop. With an un­re­al­is­tic £100m ask­ing price dan­gling from the Sta­dium of Light, would-be saviours are run­ning for the hills. Short – for now, at least – is stick­ing around. And un­til he goes, fans should aim their anger at the man in the board­room, not the one hired to clean up his mess.

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