Preston North End

Preston North End slideshow

Martin O'Neill happy to throw in Scott Hogan for Ireland debut against Moldova

Martin O’Neill will unleash a new generation of strikers against Moldova as he tries to reignite the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualification campaign. Ireland need to beat the group minnows on Friday night to set up a mouthwatering final game against Wales to determine which of them secures a play-off spot to compete for a place in Russia next year. O’Neill has been able to name Aston Villa forward Scott Hogan in an Ireland squad for the first time after he received his Irish passport last month, following his decision to play for the country where all four of his grandparents were born. There has also been a first call-up for Preston North End’s Sean Maguire, so prolific for Cork City in the League of Ireland before moving to England over the summer, as well as Millwall’s exciting prospect Aiden O’Brien. It means the Ireland squad has a fresher, less predictable feel and given the fact his team need to win both of their remaining games, O’Neill sounds like he is in the mood to take a gamble on some of the new faces. Martin O'Neill is yet to decide whether he would be willing to sign a new contract to stay on with the Ireland side after the end of the qualification campaign Credit: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili “Sometimes you might be a bit concerned about throwing a young lad into a big, big game,” said O’Neill, who is yet to decide whether he will extend his contract with the Football Association of Ireland beyond this qualification campaign. “But, by the same token, some young lads come in and just accept the pressure. That is something you will get to know during the course of time. I don't mind risking it. “I wouldn't have a problem, if I thought over the next couple of days, that someone could eke out a goal for us. There's every possibility that could happen, I wouldn't have a problem. "It's nice and fresh to see some kids coming in, you can see the excitement and enthusiasm. Eventually, I suppose, you are hoping that over the course of time that these players become fully fledged international players as the older players drop away. It's exciting and you see young O'Brien and it is the same with young Maguire." O’Neill is particularly enthused by Hogan’s decision to play for Ireland, as he is the sort of in the box predator Ireland have lacked ever since Robbie Keane retired last year. “I think what I like is his ability in the box to forge a chance for himself and score,” added O’Neill "I think that he can improve greatly on his hold up play outside the penalty area and I have said that to him. “But he can certainly work the ball in the penalty area. He will have a shot and I definitely think that he is a goalscorer.”

Martin O'Neill happy to throw in Scott Hogan for Ireland debut against Moldova

Martin O’Neill will unleash a new generation of strikers against Moldova as he tries to reignite the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualification campaign. Ireland need to beat the group minnows on Friday night to set up a mouthwatering final game against Wales to determine which of them secures a play-off spot to compete for a place in Russia next year. O’Neill has been able to name Aston Villa forward Scott Hogan in an Ireland squad for the first time after he received his Irish passport last month, following his decision to play for the country where all four of his grandparents were born. There has also been a first call-up for Preston North End’s Sean Maguire, so prolific for Cork City in the League of Ireland before moving to England over the summer, as well as Millwall’s exciting prospect Aiden O’Brien. It means the Ireland squad has a fresher, less predictable feel and given the fact his team need to win both of their remaining games, O’Neill sounds like he is in the mood to take a gamble on some of the new faces. Martin O'Neill is yet to decide whether he would be willing to sign a new contract to stay on with the Ireland side after the end of the qualification campaign Credit: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili “Sometimes you might be a bit concerned about throwing a young lad into a big, big game,” said O’Neill, who is yet to decide whether he will extend his contract with the Football Association of Ireland beyond this qualification campaign. “But, by the same token, some young lads come in and just accept the pressure. That is something you will get to know during the course of time. I don't mind risking it. “I wouldn't have a problem, if I thought over the next couple of days, that someone could eke out a goal for us. There's every possibility that could happen, I wouldn't have a problem. "It's nice and fresh to see some kids coming in, you can see the excitement and enthusiasm. Eventually, I suppose, you are hoping that over the course of time that these players become fully fledged international players as the older players drop away. It's exciting and you see young O'Brien and it is the same with young Maguire." O’Neill is particularly enthused by Hogan’s decision to play for Ireland, as he is the sort of in the box predator Ireland have lacked ever since Robbie Keane retired last year. “I think what I like is his ability in the box to forge a chance for himself and score,” added O’Neill "I think that he can improve greatly on his hold up play outside the penalty area and I have said that to him. “But he can certainly work the ball in the penalty area. He will have a shot and I definitely think that he is a goalscorer.”

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland's Lee Cattermole shoots wide Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland's James Vaughan reacts after missing a chance to score Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland manager Simon Grayson after the match Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland manager Simon Grayson after the match Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland's Aiden McGeady celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Chris Maxwell in action with Sunderland's Duncan Watmore Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland's Aiden McGeady celebrates scoring their second goal with Tyias Browning Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Jordan Hugill celebrates scoring their second goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Jordan Hugill scores the second goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Harrop celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Harrop celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Harrop celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Earl and Sunderland's James Vaughan in action Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Paul Huntington and Sunderland's James Vaughan in action Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Alan Browne shoots at goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Harrop in action with Sunderland's Lynden Gooch Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston manager Alex Neil Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston manager Alex Neil and Sunderland manager Simon Grayson before the match Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland manager Simon Grayson Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland manager Simon Grayson Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland's George Honeyman celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Jordan Hugill shoots at goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Harrop and Sunderland's Didier Ndong in action Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Sunderland's George Honeyman celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland

Soccer Football - Championship - Preston North End vs Sunderland - Deepdale, Preston, Britain - September 30, 2017 Preston's Josh Earl in action with Sunderland's Tyias Browning Action Images/Paul Burrows EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Callum Robinson praises PNE's start to the season

Preston North End's Callum Robinson was full of praise for his side's start to the Championship season, but feels the team need to stay "humble".

Callum Robinson praises PNE's start to the season

Preston North End's Callum Robinson was full of praise for his side's start to the Championship season, but feels the team need to stay "humble".

Callum Robinson praises PNE's start to the season

Preston North End's Callum Robinson was full of praise for his side's start to the Championship season, but feels the team need to stay "humble".

Callum Robinson praises PNE's start to the season

Preston North End's Callum Robinson was full of praise for his side's start to the Championship season, but feels the team need to stay "humble".

Alex Neil on his start to life as PNE manager

Alex Neil speaks about his start to life as manager of Preston North End, as they prepare for their clash with struggling Sunderland.

Alex Neil on his start to life as PNE manager

Alex Neil speaks about his start to life as manager of Preston North End, as they prepare for their clash with struggling Sunderland.

Alex Neil on his start to life as PNE manager

Alex Neil speaks about his start to life as manager of Preston North End, as they prepare for their clash with struggling Sunderland.

Alex Neil on his start to life as PNE manager

Alex Neil speaks about his start to life as manager of Preston North End, as they prepare for their clash with struggling Sunderland.

Bristol City v Preston North End - Sky Bet Football League Championship

FILE PHOTO: Football Soccer - Bristol City v Preston North End - Sky Bet Football League Championship - Ashton Gate - 12/1/16 Bristol City manager Steve Cotterill before the match Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Ian Smith EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Losing has become contagious at Sunderland and Simon Grayson is struggling to find a cure

If Sunderland thought things could only get better after dropping out of the Premier League, they were wrong.  If relegation was the boat sinking, this is the moment the survivors realise they have jumped into shark-infested waters and nobody is coming to save them. They must swim, but do not look like making land. Panic is spreading, hope is dwindling. Sunderland are being picked off in the Championship, torn apart, shredded and mauled. It has turned into a bloodbath and there is genuine fear now that the worst is still to come. One relegation could swiftly turn into two, a season in the second tier could be followed by another in the third. On Tuesday night, Simon Grayson’s side were thrashed 5-2 at Ipswich Town. It was their sixth defeat in seven games and they have won just one league game all season. Sunderland have not won at home since December last year. Having occupied the relegation zone all last season, they are back in one again, already two points adrift of safety. When Grayson agreed to become Sunderland manager in July he said he did so without a moment’s hesitation, but on Saturday he takes his floundering Black Cats team to face his former employers, Preston North End, worrying he has made as terrible mistake. Preston are mounting the sort of promotion challenge without him that he was expected to muster on Wearside. “It is only a low point at this moment in time,” said Grayson, after losing to Cardiff City at the weekend. “We have lost another game. We want to make it better for everyone connected to this club. Simon Grayson described Sunderland's situation as 'a low point' Credit: Getty images “But no club is too big to go down. You’ve had Man City, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, big teams who have gone down into League One. We are not thinking about that. But we must be aware of where we are. We dust ourselves down, we are back at work in the morning….” The response to that was a shambolic, error-ridden capitulation at Ipswich which, according to one local journalist who has covered Sunderland, home and away, for the best part of 20 years, was worse than any they have had the misfortune to cover. “It’s summed up when you go into the dressing room,” added an exasperated Grayson at Portman Road. “And one of the younger lads says, ‘We’re soft as such and such’ and he’s right. We’re too easy to play against. “I’m not going to say the players don’t care because they do, but they're not doing enough…” It will not be long until people are saying the same about him. Grayson was Sunderland’s second choice to succeed David Moyes as manager after the Scot quit in the summer, dismayed by the lack of money available to rebuild the team. Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, turned them down. Sunderland sold goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30m in June, but have benefited neither from that huge sum of money or Premier League parachute payments because owner Ellis Short, having once again failed to sell up, needs it to service the club’s debt. There are rumours the American is considering putting the club into administration, although this has been vehemently denied by those he employs to the run things in his absence. He is keeping the club afloat, but he has few fans on Wearside as most believe he is the root cause of the problems that have left them in this dire state. Sunderland have been relegated before, but it has not turned into a disaster like this. The Black Cats have tended to enjoy the Championship, rebuilding and rejuvenating, pushing immediately for a return to the top flight. Never, in the Premier League era, have they finished outside of the top six in the second tier after relegation, but they are in real trouble this time. Adam Matthews reacts as another Ipswich goal goes in Credit: Getty images Grayson’s job is already under threat. It must be, even though managing director Martin Bains recognises the need for stability, which is why Moyes was not sacked last term. He will be given more time, but patience is wearing thin, even though he has not even been there four months. Grayson was employed because he knew the Championship and recruited players, to the best of his ability on a tight budget, with knowledge of that league. Crucially, in the main, they are not players who have been promoted. They know the division well because that is their level. None have impressed so far, but it is not just about individuals: the whole club is sick, losing has become contagious. It is a disease and Grayson must find a cure quickly. It took Sunderland nine years of relegation battles to finally lose their place in the Premier League, yet it might only be 12 months until they fall out of the Championship. As Grayson knows from his time at Leeds United, once you are in a downward spiral, it can take years to reverse. Sunderland are still sliding fast.

Losing has become contagious at Sunderland and Simon Grayson is struggling to find a cure

If Sunderland thought things could only get better after dropping out of the Premier League, they were wrong.  If relegation was the boat sinking, this is the moment the survivors realise they have jumped into shark-infested waters and nobody is coming to save them. They must swim, but do not look like making land. Panic is spreading, hope is dwindling. Sunderland are being picked off in the Championship, torn apart, shredded and mauled. It has turned into a bloodbath and there is genuine fear now that the worst is still to come. One relegation could swiftly turn into two, a season in the second tier could be followed by another in the third. On Tuesday night, Simon Grayson’s side were thrashed 5-2 at Ipswich Town. It was their sixth defeat in seven games and they have won just one league game all season. Sunderland have not won at home since December last year. Having occupied the relegation zone all last season, they are back in one again, already two points adrift of safety. When Grayson agreed to become Sunderland manager in July he said he did so without a moment’s hesitation, but on Saturday he takes his floundering Black Cats team to face his former employers, Preston North End, worrying he has made as terrible mistake. Preston are mounting the sort of promotion challenge without him that he was expected to muster on Wearside. “It is only a low point at this moment in time,” said Grayson, after losing to Cardiff City at the weekend. “We have lost another game. We want to make it better for everyone connected to this club. Simon Grayson described Sunderland's situation as 'a low point' Credit: Getty images “But no club is too big to go down. You’ve had Man City, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, big teams who have gone down into League One. We are not thinking about that. But we must be aware of where we are. We dust ourselves down, we are back at work in the morning….” The response to that was a shambolic, error-ridden capitulation at Ipswich which, according to one local journalist who has covered Sunderland, home and away, for the best part of 20 years, was worse than any they have had the misfortune to cover. “It’s summed up when you go into the dressing room,” added an exasperated Grayson at Portman Road. “And one of the younger lads says, ‘We’re soft as such and such’ and he’s right. We’re too easy to play against. “I’m not going to say the players don’t care because they do, but they're not doing enough…” It will not be long until people are saying the same about him. Grayson was Sunderland’s second choice to succeed David Moyes as manager after the Scot quit in the summer, dismayed by the lack of money available to rebuild the team. Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, turned them down. Sunderland sold goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30m in June, but have benefited neither from that huge sum of money or Premier League parachute payments because owner Ellis Short, having once again failed to sell up, needs it to service the club’s debt. There are rumours the American is considering putting the club into administration, although this has been vehemently denied by those he employs to the run things in his absence. He is keeping the club afloat, but he has few fans on Wearside as most believe he is the root cause of the problems that have left them in this dire state. Sunderland have been relegated before, but it has not turned into a disaster like this. The Black Cats have tended to enjoy the Championship, rebuilding and rejuvenating, pushing immediately for a return to the top flight. Never, in the Premier League era, have they finished outside of the top six in the second tier after relegation, but they are in real trouble this time. Adam Matthews reacts as another Ipswich goal goes in Credit: Getty images Grayson’s job is already under threat. It must be, even though managing director Martin Bains recognises the need for stability, which is why Moyes was not sacked last term. He will be given more time, but patience is wearing thin, even though he has not even been there four months. Grayson was employed because he knew the Championship and recruited players, to the best of his ability on a tight budget, with knowledge of that league. Crucially, in the main, they are not players who have been promoted. They know the division well because that is their level. None have impressed so far, but it is not just about individuals: the whole club is sick, losing has become contagious. It is a disease and Grayson must find a cure quickly. It took Sunderland nine years of relegation battles to finally lose their place in the Premier League, yet it might only be 12 months until they fall out of the Championship. As Grayson knows from his time at Leeds United, once you are in a downward spiral, it can take years to reverse. Sunderland are still sliding fast.

Losing has become contagious at Sunderland and Simon Grayson is struggling to find a cure

If Sunderland thought things could only get better after dropping out of the Premier League, they were wrong.  If relegation was the boat sinking, this is the moment the survivors realise they have jumped into shark-infested waters and nobody is coming to save them. They must swim, but do not look like making land. Panic is spreading, hope is dwindling. Sunderland are being picked off in the Championship, torn apart, shredded and mauled. It has turned into a bloodbath and there is genuine fear now that the worst is still to come. One relegation could swiftly turn into two, a season in the second tier could be followed by another in the third. On Tuesday night, Simon Grayson’s side were thrashed 5-2 at Ipswich Town. It was their sixth defeat in seven games and they have won just one league game all season. Sunderland have not won at home since December last year. Having occupied the relegation zone all last season, they are back in one again, already two points adrift of safety. When Grayson agreed to become Sunderland manager in July he said he did so without a moment’s hesitation, but on Saturday he takes his floundering Black Cats team to face his former employers, Preston North End, worrying he has made as terrible mistake. Preston are mounting the sort of promotion challenge without him that he was expected to muster on Wearside. “It is only a low point at this moment in time,” said Grayson, after losing to Cardiff City at the weekend. “We have lost another game. We want to make it better for everyone connected to this club. Simon Grayson described Sunderland's situation as 'a low point' Credit: Getty images “But no club is too big to go down. You’ve had Man City, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, big teams who have gone down into League One. We are not thinking about that. But we must be aware of where we are. We dust ourselves down, we are back at work in the morning….” The response to that was a shambolic, error-ridden capitulation at Ipswich which, according to one local journalist who has covered Sunderland, home and away, for the best part of 20 years, was worse than any they have had the misfortune to cover. “It’s summed up when you go into the dressing room,” added an exasperated Grayson at Portman Road. “And one of the younger lads says, ‘We’re soft as such and such’ and he’s right. We’re too easy to play against. “I’m not going to say the players don’t care because they do, but they're not doing enough…” It will not be long until people are saying the same about him. Grayson was Sunderland’s second choice to succeed David Moyes as manager after the Scot quit in the summer, dismayed by the lack of money available to rebuild the team. Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, turned them down. Sunderland sold goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30m in June, but have benefited neither from that huge sum of money or Premier League parachute payments because owner Ellis Short, having once again failed to sell up, needs it to service the club’s debt. There are rumours the American is considering putting the club into administration, although this has been vehemently denied by those he employs to the run things in his absence. He is keeping the club afloat, but he has few fans on Wearside as most believe he is the root cause of the problems that have left them in this dire state. Sunderland have been relegated before, but it has not turned into a disaster like this. The Black Cats have tended to enjoy the Championship, rebuilding and rejuvenating, pushing immediately for a return to the top flight. Never, in the Premier League era, have they finished outside of the top six in the second tier after relegation, but they are in real trouble this time. Adam Matthews reacts as another Ipswich goal goes in Credit: Getty images Grayson’s job is already under threat. It must be, even though managing director Martin Bains recognises the need for stability, which is why Moyes was not sacked last term. He will be given more time, but patience is wearing thin, even though he has not even been there four months. Grayson was employed because he knew the Championship and recruited players, to the best of his ability on a tight budget, with knowledge of that league. Crucially, in the main, they are not players who have been promoted. They know the division well because that is their level. None have impressed so far, but it is not just about individuals: the whole club is sick, losing has become contagious. It is a disease and Grayson must find a cure quickly. It took Sunderland nine years of relegation battles to finally lose their place in the Premier League, yet it might only be 12 months until they fall out of the Championship. As Grayson knows from his time at Leeds United, once you are in a downward spiral, it can take years to reverse. Sunderland are still sliding fast.

Championship - Hull City vs Preston North End

Soccer Football - Championship - Hull City vs Preston North End - KCOM Stadium, Hull, Britain - September 26, 2017 Preston North End's Callum Robinson scores their second goal Action Images/Craig Brough EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

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