New Sunderland manager Simon Grayson has got a tricky task on his hands turning things around at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats saw their decade-long stint in the Premier League come to a meek end last season, with David Moyes’ side winning just six of their 38 league matches and finishing 16 points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.
And former Everton and Manchester United chief Moyes decided that he wasn’t the man to lead them in the second tier next season, as he resigned back in May, and although the Sunderland hierarchy took their time in appointing a successor, it was Preston boss Grayson who they selected as his replacement.
And the 47-year-old will have the unenviable task of attempting to install confidence in a squad, fan base, and club ahead of the new Championship season, which for them begins at home to Derby County on August 4.
This coming summer is a huge one for the Sunderland boss, what with prized assets Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford already sold, and reinforcements will certainly be needed if they are to indeed challenge for an immediate return to the Premier League.
And one man they’ve been linked with in recent weeks is Bournemouth winger Max Gradel, formerly of Leeds United.
The 29-year-old has been at the Vitality Stadium since 2015 following a four-year spell in France with Saint-Etienne, but only managed 11 Premier League appearances under Eddie Howe last season, and failed to contribute a goal or an assist in that time.
And with the winger reportedly wanting out of the South Coast outfit, and Sunderland reportedly interested in him, Gradel would be an excellent addition to bolster a flagging Black Cats side next term.
Ultimately, Sunderland were laborious, flat, and uninspiring for the vast majority of last season – Defoe bagged 15 goals but their next highest registered just three, while Adnan Januzaj sat top of their assists charts with a mere three.
That distinct lack of attacking flair and creativity simply must be improved next season, otherwise Grayson’s men will have no chance in their quest to immediately return to the top-flight.
And Gradel could certainly aid in that quest, given that he has often produced his best football under Grayson in the past, and has the sort of dynamism and pace in the attacking third that can cause defenders all sorts of problems.
It was Grayson who brought the 29-year-old to Leeds back in 2009 initially on loan and then permanently at the start of 2010, and it was under him that he produced his best season to date with a stunning 18 goals and five assists in the 2010/11 campaign, helping Leeds to seventh place in the Championship table.
And those numbers as well as the way he plays the game – full of running and willing to take defenders on – is exactly what Sunderland are crying out for ahead of next season.
The Black Cats are reportedly looking to bring Gradel to the Stadium of Light, and Grayson simply must get a deal done to reunite with the winger this summer.