Sunderland boss discusses team changes, knowing his best Black Cats XI and Jason Steele v Robbin Ruiter

Simon Grayson
Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson has defended his right to make changes when the team is losing – and says he does know his best XI when everyone is fit.

The Sunderland boss came in for heavy criticism following the 5-2 midweek thrashing at Ipswich, a result that heightened fears of another relegation battle.

Grayson made five changes, including dropping keeper Robbin Ruiter and recalling Jason Steele in a bid to spark an upturn in fortunes.

The manager says he would love to name an unchanged team every week ,as it would mean they were injury-free and doing well.

When asked about the unforced changes and whether that in itself can be a problem, Grayson said: “I would love to be able to play the same team every week – nothing would give me more satisfaction in saying the team will be the same as the previous game.

“It means everybody is available and you have put on a decent performance. When you lose a game I have the right to change whatever, no matter the number.

“We made the decision to make changes. There will be changes at Preston because players are coming back from illness and fitness issues, but nothing will give me greater satisfaction than to name the same side for the next five games.

“I have a team in my head that I would love to pick, because I think that is the best team I can put out, but I haven’t had the luxury to be able to do that, at this moment in time.

“Let’s hope in the next few weeks I am able to do that and we are winning games and things take care of themselves.

“But when you lose games, I have the right to make as many changes that I need to do to spice it up and get a reaction and to get some results.”

Grayson defended Steele’s performance at Portman Road and the former Middlesbrough stopper is likely to keep his place in the side.

Grayson, who said neither keeper had yet to make the No 1 spot their own, added: “Steele started the season quite well, Robbin came in to the team and we didn’t win many games. You make a change again to change it around and then concede five.

“It is unfair criticism on the goalkeepers. I don’t think they have been prone to many mistakes whatsoever – the lads in front of them will be first to admit they need to eradicate their mistakes.

“There have been no glaring errors.

“I would love to select a steady, consistent team because that would suggest we are doing well and winning matches.

“Jason can’t be faulted for all the goals the other night.

“Who is to suggest, if Robbin was in goal, he wouldn’t have been on the end of five goals because we were poor as a team?

“We all take responsibility. I do for picking the team, the players do because they are out there making the mistakes and contributing to the result we had.”

Grayson has been pleased with the reaction of the players since the Portman Road defeat, those in the team and those who were dropped.

“Like any player, you expect them to react,” he added.

“Anybody who is left out of the team and starts sulking and moping around isn’t going to do them any good because they won’t get back into the team.

“You want them to stick their chest out and say ‘right, come and pick me again’.

“That’s what you want from all your players.”