The Black Cats endured a challenging campaign in the Premier League last year and it looks as though they haven’t recovered yet; what have you made of what you’ve seen?
To be honest, I think everybody hoped they’d get off to a much better start than this in the Championship. Obviously it’s been awkward because there’s been a big turnover of players, there’s been a new Manager over the summer and that’s all taken time to settle down, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this has been a really, really poor start to the campaign. I don’t think anyone thought it would be easy; in the first three or four games they looked OK but since then, things have tailed off badly and, of course, to be in the relegation zone with eight points after 12 games in the middle of October is just not good enough for a club of Sunderland’s size.
What does Simon Grayson need to do to turn the fortunes of the club around?
That’s the million-dollar question! He’s brought players in in the summer, but he’s having to work on a tight budget, which is always a big problem with the club’s financial problems in terms of its wage bill. He’s a proven Manager at this level so all he can do is hope that – sooner or later – his methods start to pay off. A lot of where Sunderland are now is down to a crisis of confidence and I think that if they get a win then things will quickly pick up. At the moment, particularly at home where the fans have endured such a lot of pain over these last five or six years, it’s a very edgy place with an atmosphere that isn’t very nice to play in.
Former Bee Lewis Grabban has scored three goals already – how is he settling in at the Stadium of Light?
He’s just made his return from injury after five games out but he started out really well with a couple of goals against Norwich City in the club’s solitary league win. He got injured in the middle of September but he looked good up until then and when he was out of the team you could see that he was badly missed. Sunderland were leaning on James Vaughan but I think Grabban is better on the ball and now he’s back, I think he could make a big difference.
Given that this is the first meeting since the Bees’ 2006 FA Cup win, what should Brentford expect in terms of the way Sunderland set up?
Simon Grayson – more than any other Manager I’ve dealt with in recent times – tends to tailor his teams to the opposition. He’s used both a back four and a back three several times this season so I’m not sure how he’ll want to approach the Brentford game. I’ve worked with managers like Peter Reid in the past who was a straight 4-4-2 man whereas Grayson is a lot more flexible in that he’s already used a 3-5-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2. A lot of it be down to the players he’s got available as well; there was only one fit centre-back against QPR so it was a case of ‘make do and mend’.
What’s your score prediction for today’s game?
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