Sunderland manager Simon Grayson will have been fully aware of the bleak reality facing Sunderland when he took over at the Stadium of Light in the summer.
The Black Cats had been relegated from the Premier League, lost their talismanic goalscorer Jermain Defoe, were the eleventh most in-debt club in Europe according to the Sunderland Echo, and were burdened by an owner desperate to sell and reluctant to reinvest.
In total, Sunderland spent the lowest amount on transfer fees in the entire second tier this summer with cheap buys, loans and freebies the order of the day once again. It should perhaps be no surprise, then, that they have plummeted to second bottom – ahead of only a Bolton side who were two divisions below them last season.
And reports in the Northern Echo that the club will look for offers for three senior players in January sum up a desperate situation. The seldom-seen Jack Rodwell and the maddeningly inconsistent Lamine Kone may not be missed too much but Didier Ndong certainly will be.
Grayson has picked the club’s £13.6 million record signing from the start in ten out of 11 Championship games this season and, although Ndong’s performances haven’t been particularly consistent, he is clearly valued and rated by his manager.
Though the report claims that owner Ellis Short is determined to reduce the club’s debt and will listen to offers for Ndong in January – meaning Grayson will have very little say in the Gabonese midfielder’s future if a good offer arrives.
There is a very real chance that Sunderland could sell one of Grayson’s key players from underneath him. As fans of north east rivals Newcastle United will tell you, that is never likely to keep a manager happy.
As yet, there’s no sign that Grayson is considering his future. But you couldn’t blame him if he was. How can he guide a club forward when they are selling their key players against his will?