After just one league win all season, Sunderland parted company with manager Simon Grayson after a 3-3 draw with Bolton on Tuesday evening. He was informed of his sacking just 15 minutes after the final whistle, a clear indication that the Stadium of Light board saw the game as a must-win for the ex-Preston boss.
Regardless of whether his sacking was deserved or not, the main question surrounds where Grayson’s next job will be.
He is renowned as a specialist in getting teams out of League 1 and into the Championship, having achieved this feat with four separate teams – Leeds, Preston, Blackpool and Huddersfield – and there is a good chance that he could take that route back into management.
Preston fans, in particular, will never forget their 4-0 win over Swindon under Grayson at Wembley in 2015, a Jermaine Beckford hat trick returning them to the Championship for the first time in four years.
He stabilised Preston in the Championship, with two successive 11th placed finishes, before Sunderland came calling last summer.
Grayson is known as a cult hero at Leeds for his successes there and was sacked with the club just one place off the Championship play-offs.
He is probably most fondly remembered not only for promotion at Elland Road, but also their infamous 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the 2009/10 FA Cup.
In terms of Sunderland, given their problems off the field, it could be argued that success this season was never going to be likely, regardless of the manager in charge.
The club found it difficult to offload players like Lamine Kone and Jack Rodwell, both on Premier League wages, and Grayson was given a small budget to spend in comparison to the likes of Aston Villa, Birmingham and Wolves, the latter of which spent £15 million on Porto’s Ruben Neves, alone.
As a result, Grayson has had to rely mostly on loan signings, even though he spent nearly £1 million on Bury’s James Vaughan.
One of those loan signings, Lewis Grabban, has undoubtedly been a brilliant acquisition for the club, scoring eight times despite Sunderland sitting in the relegation zone.
Grayson also brought in Aiden McGeady, having worked with the Republic of Ireland international last season at Preston, with the 30-year-old impressing so far since joining the club.
Despite Grayson’s sacking from Wearside, there will surely be numerous clubs interested in appointing the 47-year-old when vacancies become available.
If he wanted a quick return to management, one of those clubs could be Bury, a side that currently contains ex-Preston players Chris Humphrey and Beckford, the latter of whom is a close friend of Grayson’s.
The Shakers are currently just one point off bottom in League 1 but are backed by an ambitious chairman in Stewart Day and made several marquee signings this summer, fighting off competition from Championship clubs to secure the signature of midfielder/forward Harry Bunn from Huddersfield.
There is a good possibility, however, that Grayson may take time out of the game before deciding on his next move.
He spent four and a half years at Preston, having joined in February 2013, and has endured a difficult four months at the Stadium of Light.
His reputation of stabilising clubs in the Championship, bar Sunderland, will surely give him an opportunity to discuss a Championship job if such a vacancy came up.
Grayson has spent the majority of his career working in the North West and if a position did come up in the area in particular – likely at some point given the amount of Football League clubs in the area – he would be near the top of any shortlist drawn up.