Sunderland released a club statement recently saying that, along with control of the club not changing hands, Simon Grayson was to hold talks about becoming manager. A few short hours, later Grayson signed a three-year deal. He may not be the most glamorous of choicesm but he could be exactly what the club requires.
With many managers having been linked to the vacancy over the summer, the news has not given many confidence that an immediate return to the Premier League will happen. Regardless, the ex-Leeds United manager has an impressive record under strict financial conditions at clubs he has managed. It is no secret that these will likely be the conditions he will also face at the Stadium of Light.
It may not seem impressive, but Grayson has managed just four clubs in his ten-year managerial career. In this day and age, statistics like those are rarely seen as managers change clubs at an alarming rate. Although he has never managed higher than at Championship level, he has gained promotion with each of his four clubs. He has also never experienced relegation. His win percentages make for good reading too.
In first season in charge, Grayson led Blackpool to the play-offs and eventually the final. In the final they beat Yeovil Town 2-0 to secure a place in the Championship and a successful start to his managerial career. The next season he led his side to their highest ever league position since the 1970’s. Having established Blackpool in the Championship he caught the attention of a former club looking for a new manager. In December 2008, he left the club with a 36.8% win rate and headed back where he began his career.
With Leeds in ninth position in League One and having suffered five straight defeats, Grayson got the team winning again and got them into fourth position by the end of the season. During this time, Grayson and Leeds matched a forty-year-old record by winning their final eleven home games. The play-offs didn’t end well as they were knocked out in the semi-finals.
The following season saw United finish in second place and ultimately promoted back to the Championship. The season also saw the team travel to Old Trafford in the FA Cup and beat Manchester United 1-0. The first season back in the Championship saw United finish a respectable seventh, and only a poor run of form at the end of the season saw them miss out on the play-offs.
During the 2011/12, season Grayson kept Leeds within touching distance of the play-offs, but with 18 games to go he was dismissed. He left with an impressive win rate of 49.7%.
Several weeks later, Grayson was back in League One, but he wasn’t there for long. Once again, he was involved in the play-offs and once again he gained promotion to the Championship.
His time at Huddersfield did not last long, with the team struggling but outside of the relegation places. He was sacked with a percentage of 34.7%.
Preston North End
Preston were near the bottom of League One when Grayson arrived in February 2013. He saved the club from relegation and the following season guided the club to the play-offs, where they were defeated in the semi-finals. One year later they were back, but this time they reached the final, where they defeated Swindon Town.
Since gaining promotion, Grayson has established Preston in the Championship. His budget for players is nothing compared to many in the league and a win percentage of 44.3% during his time at the club is impressive.
With having a fraction of the money that others have in the league, Grayson has had to wheel and deal, make good use of the loan and free transfer markets. He has also scouted well in the lower leagues of English football as well as the likes of the League of Ireland, from which he has bought several players.
His ability to buy players, get the best out of them and sell them on for a profit will have appealed to Sunderland due to the limited budget they will have. With wages having been one of the highest in Europe in recent seasons, Grayson will have to keep this low for the foreseeable future, something he is very capable of doing. Expect several players to come in for low fees and low wages.
Style of play
A fan of the now old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation, Grayson likes to keep to the tradition of having two strikers with the wingers given the main job of supplying the assists. He tends to prefer a counter-attacking style, too; only three Championship sides last season saw the ball less than Preston. When they did have the ball, however, they played quick and direct.
Being hard to beat will also be important. Preston’s 14 league draws last season, one of the highest in the league, proved that his side were tough to beat. This style may not appeal to all, but if it gets results then Sunderland fans could be happy once again.
Grayson certainly has his work cut out at the Stadium of Light. With pre-season now under way, he must quickly get to know what is left of the Sunderland squad and begin work on recruiting new players. His budget is unknown at present but it is likely that he will not be able to spend big. His ability to work efficiently in the transfer market therefore could be about to be out to the test. Sunderland fans have everything crossed.