SIMON GRAYSON has found an unlikely ally in a former Sunderland manager ahead of his return to Preston North End, where he will hope history repeats itself at the final whistle.

Mick McCarthy was quick to give his Black Cats counterpart a call after digesting Ipswich’s comprehensive 5-2 victory at Portman Road on Tuesday.

McCarthy spent three years in charge of Sunderland between 2003 and 2006 and endured some highs and huge lows during that spell.

He has kept an eye on his old employers’ performances in the 11 years since then and there are similarities between how Sunderland are now to his first season in the second tier with them.

When McCarthy took over in 2003 he suffered 11 straight defeats, nine of those in the Premier League, and the dreadful sequence of results eventually came to an end when he oversaw a 2-0 success at Deepdale in August 2003; his side’s third league game of the season.

Now Grayson will be returning to Preston, where he moved on from in the summer, looking for Sunderland to bring an end to their own malaise, having failed to win any of their last eight league games and losing seven of those.

And McCarthy had some warm words for Grayson during this difficult period, even if the scoreline and levels of performance have been criticised by many since that latest reversal.

“Mick did mention a few things, he said what happened to him was that he broke the cycle of defeats on the trot when they won at Preston 2-0,” said Grayson. “Let’s hope this is the same thing.

“One other thing he did say as well, and it did amaze me, so I had to go off and check it, was that since he left in 2006 the club has had 11 managers and four or five caretaker managers. That’s an astounding figure by any stretch of the imagination.

“It made me think was he right in the first place and when I found out he was it showed that ultimately you need consistency and continuity throughout the club to be successful.

“You can compare the club now to his time here but also last year at Ipswich Mick was shouted at from the terraces to be sacked, now they’re fourth in the division and that’s what can happen in football at any club. It was nice to speak with him learn from his experiences.”

After that Preston success 14 years ago, Sunderland went onto miss out on promotion via the play-offs and eventually went up the following year. A top six charge seems fanciful already for Grayson’s Black Cats, particularly after the heavy midweek defeat in Suffolk.

Grayson said: “It was unusual to get a phone call from a fellow manager like that. I am friends with Mick but very rarely do you get an opposition manager ringing you after it.

“He watched our game and said he thought he needed to ring me to tell me that my team had done alright. That was exactly what I thought on the night.

“We made errors but it wasn’t a 5-2 game that’s for sure. Mick reiterated that. It was nice to hear that from somebody who was at the game and has 25 years’ experience in the game, telling me what I thought at the time.

“Mick said ‘your team are not, not trying,’ the players maybe need more urgency about stopping the opposition. We allowed them too much time to get balls into the box, we need to get braver and stop opposition doing things in final third.

“That was the reaction of the dressing room as well. People in the dressing room care about results, I know what the spirit is like in there and there is a determination to put things right.”

As Sunderland struggle to climb clear of the Championship’s bottom three, Grayson’s former club Preston are pressing hard at the correct end of the division. Alex Neil has built on his predecessor’s good work over the last few years to steer them up to fifth so far.

Given the contrasting starts to the season, it would be easy to suggest that Grayson could be forgiven for having second thoughts about taking over at the Stadium of Light and leaving Deepdale.

Grayson said: “I feel I was approached in the summer to take over this club because I was the right person to do it. I still feel I am the right person to oversee this trouble we are in for the longer term.

“People will be thinking X,Y and Z can come in and do a different job but this is not an easy job, as everyone knows. We feel we are doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes, the players are doing what they need to do as well. We just need a few breaks here and there.”

He added: “I live my life without any regrets, I would have had regrets if I didn’t take this job that’s how I look at things. I had opportunities to leave Preston many times while I was there, but it wasn’t the right time to leave.

“When this Sunderland job came up I thought this was too big an opportunity for myself to turn it down. I have no regrets about leaving and I would like to be in a different position in the table now with Sunderland, but I would like to be swapping positions with a lot of other teams. I have no regrets.”