IT was the transfer window that broke all records for football club spending. Except if you were Sunderland. While clubs up and down the country plunged themselves further into debt, the Black Cats spent the summer proving it is still possible to assemble a side on a relative shoe-string.

Simon Grayson signed ten players before the window closed last Thursday, with his total spend coming in at £1.25m. To provide a bit of context, he could have done the same thing 148 times, and still wouldn’t have matched the sum Paris St German paid Barcelona for Neymar.

Grayson paid a fee for three players – Jason Steele, Aiden McGeady and James Vaughan – and picked the others up on either free transfers or loans.

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Imagine how David Moyes would have complained had he found himself in the same situation. Last weekend, Moyes broke his silence to moan about the lack of finance available to him during his time at the Stadium of Light, but he still managed to squander £8m on Papy Djilobodji, who left on loan last month, and broke Sunderland’s transfer record to sign Didier Ndong.

Grayson could have signed a dozen teams if he had been handed Ndong’s transfer fee, yet you won’t find the current Black Cats boss moaning about his lot. Money can buy you a lot of things, but even within football, it is still no guarantee of success.

“People forget, we signed McGeady for £250,000, and in July people were talking about him being £4-5m,” said Grayson, ahead of this afternoon’s game with Sheffield United. “Two years ago, (Callum) McManaman went for just short of £5m. Jonny Williams and Marc Wilson are both no mugs – the figures don’t matter, you might spend £5m on someone, but they can still be a flop.

“That’s probably what’s happened previously. The £1.25m we have spent would probably have gone on agents’ fees and stuff like that. Ultimately, it’s about getting the right group of players together that want to be here, and I made sure that when I spoke to the players I signed, I got good reports.”

While managers used to plying their trade in the Premier League might have deemed Grayson’s summer spending pot woefully inadequate, the Sunderland boss readily admits it is in keeping with the way he has been forced to manage throughout his career.

He led Leeds United when they were going through a process of stringent cost cutting, and even with all the high-profile summer departures, Sunderland’s current wage bill is still understood to be much higher than the one he was having to work with at his previous club, Preston.

“That was probably one of the reasons I got the job,” said Grayson. “I knew there wasn’t going to be a great deal of money, but if you look at my previous record at all of my clubs, I’ve never had much money to spend.

“It was about pulling in the contacts of people I know, and hopefully I’ve got a reputation that players like playing for me and want to come to a club where I am. Just because you’ve not spent loads of money, it doesn’t mean you haven’t got good players.

“It’s something I’ve been used to in the past. I’ve looked at players and thought, ‘Well, he’s got something to prove’. Look at McGeady last year at Preston, no one was going to touch him, and Jermaine Beckford is another like that who I had at Preston.

“Just because a player has been given a free, if they’ve got the right attitude and desire, they can still be a good player. They’re all professional players, it’s just about getting them going again and getting the best out of their ability. That’s down to your man management as a coach or manager. It’s the same process, whether a player has cost you £10m, £100m or they’re a free.”

Even so, Grayson freely admits that escalating prices right across the footballing spectrum made for an extremely difficult window in which to conduct business.

“It was crazy,” he said. “It was probably more the salaries that certain players were earning that was the biggest surprise, and we’re not talking Premier League players. One or two we inquired about in the Championship, we were astounded by the figures, and how much people were wanting.

“Just look at deadline day, it was crazy the amount of money being thrown around. Look at Norwich, how can they afford to have allegedly turned down £12m from Swansea for (Nelson) Oliveira, a player who only came in for a couple of million a year or two ago? We weren’t after him, but that was an example of the levels you’re talking about.”

The challenge facing Grayson now is to mould his new-look squad into a unit capable of challenging for promotion, and the first objective is to end a shocking run that has seen Sunderland fail to record a win of any description at the Stadium of Light since mid-December.

“We want to try to win whether it’s home or away, but ultimately we do want to win as quickly as we can at home because we need to stop this run,” said the Sunderland boss. “People keep bringing it up, but ultimately a run like that is there to be stopped.

“It’s nine months, but it’s going to finish soon, without a shadow of a doubt. Let’s hope it’s a bit like buses, we win on Saturday, and then a second comes along on Tuesday night (against Nottingham Forest).”