Sunderland preserved their unbeaten start to the Championship season with a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday.
Simon Grayson’s side drew with Derby County on the opening day before impressively seeing off Norwich City 3-1 last weekend, and they looked on course to record back-to-back successes when George Honeyman gave them a fourth minute lead at Hillsborough.
Yet Carlos Carvalhal’s men hit back 20 minutes from time through midfielder David Jones, and both sides had to settle for a point in what was an intriguing encounter in Yorkshire.
And new boss Grayson must be thrilled with the way his side, relegated from the Premier League last season with just 24 points from their 38 games, have begun the campaign, yet he’s unlikely to be overly pleased with recent news on the transfer front, as target Max Gradel has decided against moving to the Stadium of Light.
The 29-year-old Bournemouth winger struggled for regular first team football under Eddie Howe last season and was subsequently linked with a move away this summer, and a move to French side Toulouse has materialised for the Ivory Coast international despite reports that Sunderland had agreed a deal with the Cherries.
However, Gradel will be playing his trade in Ligue 1 this season, and Sunderland appear to have missed a trick by failing to land the pacey winger, as he’d certainly have given them a huge boost in the attacking third of the field.
Although it hasn’t quite worked out for the Ivory Coast international in the Premier League, the 29-year-old has played some of his best football in the Championship, and what’s more that season in which he excelled at Leeds came under the stewardship of manager Grayson.
Gradel scored 18 goals and laid on five assists to help Grayson’s Leeds finish seventh in the second tier back in the 2010/11 campaign, their joint-highest finish alongside last season since 2006, which was also their first campaign back in the Championship following promotion the term before.
The 29-year-old was absolutely superb throughout the campaign and was a constant menace down the flanks, and he took some of that form to Saint-Etienne with him in 2011, where he went on to score 31 goals and lay on 16 assists in 131 games.
Ultimately, Grayson knew how to get the best out of the Ivorian during their time together at Leeds, be it that season in the Championship or the one before in League One – Gradel used to perform at a high level under the now-Sunderland boss.
And that is why they may have missed a trick, as the Black Cats were hopeless going forward last season, and although they have strengthened their attacking department this summer, you still sense that there is room for a few more tricky and creative players in the squad.
They’ve started the season well and deserve much credit for doing so, but Gradel could be a match-winner later down the line on those days where things aren’t quite going according to plan.
The fact that Grayson spoke of his immense disappointment at failing to land Gradel says it all – he knows how beneficial it would have been to have landed the winger, and how much of a trick they have missed by failing to do so.