SIMON GRAYSON insists being a big club doesn’t guarantee success in the Championship and has called for many of his players to prove they can handle life at Sunderland.

The Black Cats boss is confident he has a group of men determined to succeed on Wearside, although he is appreciative they have work to do to put smiles back on the faces of supporters.

Sunderland head into tonight’s visit of Nottingham Forest still searching for a first home win of the season, after following up a draw with Derby County by losing to Leeds United and then Sheffield United.

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The latest of those, Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Blades, led to disgruntled supporters criticising the players and the club’s owner Ellis Short – and Grayson hopes his team can impress when they take on Forest tonight.

And Grayson wants his players – he signed ten new faces during the summer transfer window - to prove they can deal with the pressures of playing for Sunderland, where fans’ frustrations have grown during a number of years of decline in the Premier League.

“We have to overcome the fact we have not won at home since December,” said Grayson. “These records are there to be broken and stopped. No better time to do it than Tuesday.

“Let’s get our first home win in a long time and let’s go on and make it many more. When you are doing that the Stadium of Light can be an intimidating place for the opposition.

“We have new players trying to come to terms with playing at such a big club. Not many have played in surroundings like we have at Sunderland and the expectancy levels increase the demands. It’s something they have to learn.

“They are also young players as well, learning their trade. In the past this club has had players here on loan, who have overcome circumstances like this and gone on to have great careers.

“People like Danny Rose, who has become a Premier League player on a regular basis and an international. Younger players have to learn what it is like to play for Sunderland, such a big club. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.”

There is no doubt Sunderland’s players struggled to cope with the situation on Saturday, when Sheffield United had an easy afternoon. The home side hadn’t even registered a shot on target until Jack Rodwell headed in a consolation in the 94th minute.

The defeat left Sunderland a point above the relegation zone and another reversal tonight could see them fall below the line – and that is not what Grayson had envisaged if he did know the extent of the problems when he took over in the summer.

But Grayson said: “From day one I stressed it won’t happen overnight. A lot of players have left, a lot have come in. The money isn’t available that other clubs have had. It is going to be a work in progress, a slow process of making things work for us.

“Also we have to win matches. We have no divine right to be in the top six or top two, based on being an ex-Premier League club.

“There are lots of other clubs in similar boats - Aston Villa alongside us, regulars in the Premier League. Even Norwich, Birmingham, who are around us. Big clubs. Just because of your name you are not guaranteed top six or promotion.”

Sunderland’s only victory from six league games so far under Grayson was at Norwich; and impressive it was too. Such a worrying home run does raise the question whether the players will be dreading playing at the Stadium of Light?

Grayson said: “No you don’t (want players to be fearing playing at home). That’s down to myself and the staff to be the most positive people around. I make sure we give them encouragement and if you make a mistake it is only encouragement, it is only a game of football, you are not going to hurt anyone. You have to be brave.

“I understand the frustration of the fans because we have not won a game. I don’t think the frustration is really aimed at these individuals we have playing, or that particular 11 that was out on Saturday.

“It is an accumulation of what has been going on for a few months and years, over a period of time. We have to be strong and brave, we have to get on the ball and pass it and run around and get that spring in our step that makes everything look easier.”

Grayson’s work in the transfer market over the last few months has seen him introduce ten new faces at a cost of just £1.25m. Three of those arrivals made their first appearances against Sheffield United, and he knows the atmosphere Marc Wilson, Callum McManaman and Jonny Williams encountered on Saturday was not the ideal starting point.

He said: “No but it is our job to give them as much positivity and encouragement to go and express themselves out there and do what they have come to this football club in the first place for. That is to get their careers going on a big stage. Hopefully the ones who have come will be able to handle it and we can get this club kicking on again.”