No excuses now for Grayson's Sunderland with returning players & canny fixtures set up for points


Lower mid-table by November must surely be the aim for Sunderland as October football belatedly gets off to a bang this Saturday with a home game against QPR followed by some eminently winnable fixtures. 

  

It's second-bottom against 16th this weekend as QPR travel to the Stadium of Light for the first must-win match of the month for Sunderland. Saturday's game isn't the easiest against a side unbeaten in their last three but the fixture list should throw up a handful of opportunities for Simon Grayson's side to climb the table in the next few weeks. 

A trip to Brentford follows a week later, though top-6 Bristol City should provide a test after that before bottom-placed Bolton arrive on Wearside for a spanking - theoretically. 

Grayson can have no excuses for not picking up a minimum of 6 points from four by the time his side travel to Teesside for the derby with Middlesbrough on Bonfire Night. If Sunderland's start to the season has been disappointing, October offers The Lads a chance to redeem themselves.  

Mitigating factors masquerading as excuses have been trotted out for the one win in eleven run which has the Black Cats firmly in the bottom three, not least that Simon Grayson hasn't been able to field his strongest XI to date due to injuries and the unrelenting nature of a Championship campaign. 

But Sunderland knew this and Martin Bain knew this and Ellis Short should have known this and sure as hell Simon Grayson knew this - because his supposed football league nous was the reason he got the job in the first place. 

If Grayson's rabbit-in-the-headlights exterior at struggling to line a Championship side up in a coherent fashion has been desperately disappointing, his off-field ramblings have equally left heads scratched. 

The Black Cats boss may have backtracked over his "coming out of the woodwork" comments about observers lining up to criticise him, but Sunderland fans rarely give much more than a second chance to those who appear to knock them and heaping pressure on himself - a supposed old-hand at this second-tier malarkey - was a needless faux pas for a manager already taking knocks.  

Nevertheless, the returns of Duncan Watmore, Josh Maja and Lewis Grabban will aid Sunderland enormously this month and the long-forgotten Paddy McNair should be limbering up on the sidelines by the time Halloween rolls around. 

Grayson has likely privately bemoaned that he hasn't been able to work on a favoured system for his stuttering side but he did benefit from a virtual full pre-season and has now had a fortnight to intensify applying his methods to the Black Cats. 

The time for excuses will end come 3pm on Saturday and only three points will do against Ian Holloway's Hoops this weekend. The break from domestic football is now over - bring it on - it should be an interesting week. 


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