LEWIS GRABBAN is hoping Sunderland’s attacking fortunes will improve now that he and Duncan Watmore are available to support James Vaughan.

Vaughan has been leading the line on his own in recent weeks, and while his work rate and effort cannot be questioned, his return of one goal from 15 appearances in all competitions has been a factor in Sunderland’s struggles.

Simon Grayson has had to rely on the summer signing from Bury because of an absence of alternative options, but with Grabban and Watmore back in the fold, the Black Cats boss can shuffle his pack when Sunderland travel to Brentford this afternoon.

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Watmore made his first start for more than ten months in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with QPR, with Grabban coming off the bench to complete a month-long recovery from a hamstring injury. The pair could find themselves leading the line in tandem at Griffin Park, a prospect that should enhance Sunderland’s chances of recording only a second league win of the season.

“James has been the only one fit, and that’s been tough on him in terms of game load and all the stuff that goes on around that,” said Grabban, whose three goals in the opening two games of the season make him the Black Cats’ second-highest scorer.

“Now hopefully, with me and Duncan back, it can lighten the load on him and give the manager more options for what he wants to do. The more forward options the better really.”

When Grabban sustained his hamstring injury in the middle of last month, Sunderland were beginning their slide into the bottom three. Their demise has gathered pace in his absence, and he re-joins a side badly bereft of confidence.

Having been relegated from the top-flight last season, Sunderland remain a significant scalp, and the size of the club can make it even harder to turn things around. The Black Cats’ problems are both deep and long-standing, and with Ellis Short looking to sell up and move on, structural changes are required before a major overhaul can be achieved.

That said, however, the current squad should still be performing much more successfully than they are, and while it is easy to cite past failings as an explanation for this season’s struggles, Grabban accepts Sunderland’s players have to be strong enough to take responsibility for their own destiny.

“When you’re at a big club where things have been going wrong for a while, that can make it harder to turn things around,” he said. “But it really depends on the character of the individual.

“I think you should use that to boost yourself, and want to step up to the level that the club has been at in its history before. It should be a motivation. You should want to be proud to be at that level.

“Obviously, the club has dropped down a bit, but it’s a Premier League club in everything apart from its status at the moment. Everyone just has to step up to get it back there.”

Having started the season reasonably strongly, Sunderland’s fortunes began to change at the end of August. A 2-0 home defeat to Leeds United set the alarm bells ringing, and things took another turn for the worse when a trip to Oakwell resulted in a resounding 3-0 defeat at the hands of Barnsley.

That was an afternoon that proved Sunderland could not afford to take anything for granted in the Championship, and that the club’s name counts for nothing if its players are unable to back it up on the pitch.

In terms of the stature of the two teams involved, today’s game with Brentford should be a mismatch. But the stark reality is that Sunderland are taking on a side five places above them in the table, and while fortunes can change quickly if you can string a run of three or four wins together, the notion of the Black Cats having a divine right to succeed in the second tier has long since been demolished.

“The Barnsley game was a bit of a shock,” said Grabban. “And also maybe a reality check that you can get beat by teams people think are maybe lesser than yourselves. I think you have to take every game as it is, and not underestimate people – maybe we did that game.

“It only takes one game to turn things around. The gaffer has made that point a few times, and if you get on a run, people can forget how bad things were at the start of the season. That has probably happened every season – there’s a team that’s underachieving, but then kick on at some point and are able to maintain that high level.”