Sunderland boss fires warning to defenders

Sunderland looked leaky against Hibernian
Sunderland looked leaky against Hibernian

Simon Grayson has no concerns about the quality in his squad, but is determined to ensure they are ready for the defensive challenges of the Championship.

The Black Cats have scored five goals in their first two pre-season games, but have looked less certain at the back against both Bury and Hibernian.

Grayson is looking to add more quality both up front and in wide areas, with the likes of Wahbi Khazri and Jeremain Lens still likely to leave the club.

The Sunderland boss is also currently working without a senior striker, but youngster Josh Maja has excelled in his two appearances so far.

With a strong crop of central midfielders also at his disposal, Grayson has no qualms that with new arrivals he will have what he needs to hurt teams in attack.

The major challenge will be ensuring they are ready for the physical challenge in the second tier.

He said: “When you’re a team that comes down from the Premier League, you have to have quality. There are certain ingredients that are different from the Premier League, and the players are going to have to get into that mindset. Without the ball, you’ve got to stop the opposition from playing and you’ve got to defend better.

“Teams in the Championship are probably going to ask more questions of you in a more direct manner. We have to deal with that, and that’s what we’re going to be working on a lot over the next four or five weeks before the season starts. With the ball, it isn’t a problem because they wouldn’t be at this club unless they could handle it.”

Simon Grayson has also revealed that Tyias Browning is not yet ready to join his team-mates in pre-season action.

Fellow loanee made a promising debut in the second half against Hibernian, but Browning, whose signing was confirmed on Saturday morning, might not appear in a red and white shirt until the clash with St Johnstone this weekend.

The Black Cats travel for their third pre-season game against Livingston on Wednesday night.

He said: “He’s a little bit behind schedule in terms of where we are with the fitness side of things, so the likelihood is that he won’t be involved on Wednesday.

“He may be involved at St Johnstone on Saturday, but we need to get some more work into him.”