Black Cats lucky to have Simon
Simon Grayson leaves Preston in a far healthier state than he found it four years and four months ago.
When he was appointed on February 18, 2013, PNE were 17th in League One and eight points above the drop zone.
The spirit was low and the legs heavy, a legacy of Graham Westley’s turbulent time in charge.
A 2-0 win over Bournemouth in what was John Dreyer’s one game in temporary charge raised morale, a game watched by Grayson’s loyal No.2 Glynn Snodin.
Listening to Snodin’s glowing report of what he had seen and seeing what potential there was at North End, Grayson took the job.
If you were to draw a graph of his time in charge, the line would be an upward one, levelling out only at the end of last season.
He kept North End up by some distance in that first two months at the helm.
The next season, Grayson led a re-shaped side to the League One play-off semi-finals, only for them to fall to Rotherham.
Twelve months later there was play-off joy as PNE beat Swindon 4-0 at Wembley.
That came at the 10th time of asking in the club’s play-off history – North End’s La Decima you could say.
You would argue that the job should have been done at Colchester a few weeks before when they blew automatic promotion.
What a day out it was at Wembley though, Grayson’s finest hour.
After an uncertain start in the Championship, North End got to grips with it under the guidance of Grayson and were to finish 11th in 2015/16.
They were to finish last season in the same position and with the same number of points.
That was regarded as something of a disappointment, bearing in mind for a few weeks there was an outside chance of a push for the play-offs.
One point taken from the last six games saw them drop back to 11th – the poorest run of Grayson’s tenure.
The jungle drums had been beating for much of the close season over the Sunderland job, Grayson well placed in the betting for much of the time after David Moyes’ exit from the Stadium of Light.
Initially, Derek McInnes was the favourite, only for the Aberdeen manager to turn the job down.
Even when Grayson went to the top of the betting, he did not look convincing as the Black Cats’ first choice.
McInnes has turned it down, while Chris Wilder and Nigel Pearson were to distance themselves from it.
What muddied the waters was that Sunderland owner Ellis Short was looking to sell the club, that putting a search for the new boss on hold to some extent.
Had a consortium from Germany gone through with a takeover, they had a coach from home lined up.
Grayson was the choice of Sunderland’s board should the takeover fall through.
When it hit the wall late on Wednesday night, then they officially turned their sights on Lancashire and made an official approach for Grayson on Thursday morning.
Considering he only left Preston late in the morning and had been appointed by early evening, it did leave a sour taste for some.
Grayson takes Snodin with him to Wearside – more often than not a manager takes his assistant with him.
For now, the rest of the coaching staff stay at PNE, with Steve Thompson and Alan Kelly overseeing the squad’s return to pre-season.
Grayson has a massive job on his hands at Sunderland but it was one he found too good to turn down.
Following a succession of narrow escapes from the drop, they were relegated in May as the Premier League’s bottom club.
Their prized assets Jordan Pickford and Jermaine Defoe have left and the squad which remains needs a re-build.
The pressure will be on Grayson to turn things around, with patience likely to be in short supply with the supporters at least.
Grayson returns to PNE with Sunderland on the last day of September, that certain to give the game that bit of added spice.
Who will be in the North End dugout that day, will be interesting to see. What they don’t want to do is rush headlong into an appointment.
For this to happen on the first day of pre-season was far from ideal but at least they have some time on their side.
Thompson is a safe pair of hands to guide the players through pre-season training .
PNE had a fine work ethic and togetherness under Grayson and whoever takes over, needs to maintain that.