SIMON GRAYSON has got his message across to the boardroom to outline where Sunderland’s squad needs improving in the New Year – even if Ellis Short isn’t around as much as once was.

Grayson, the Black Cats boss, is set to have a further meeting with chief executive Martin Bain this week to identify possible transfer options, although funds will be limited again.

Bain has had to oversee a financial restructuring job on Wearside since taking over and Grayson’s appointment as manager over the summer was followed by huge changes – and reductions in spending.

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The adjustments, following the fall from the Premier League, have led to Sunderland winning just one of their opening 13 matches in the Championship; form which has them sitting second from bottom.

Grayson has made no secret of his wish to have more new players. Despite bringing in plenty signings over the summer, he spent just over £1m.

Nevertheless Sunderland will have to be creative again when the window opens, possibly selling a couple of players to raise the funds.

The former Preston boss will be listening carefully this week to what Bain says as he comes up with ideas in a bid to make his Sunderland squad stronger.

Bain said: “That’s something that’s on my agenda, because whether we were at the top of the league or the bottom of the league, we have a duty at all times to try and improve the squad.

“I’ll sit down with Simon over the next few days and have a chat about that. I spoke to Simon on Sunday and we had a long discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the squad, and overall I think we both know where we need to improve and what we need to do.”

Given the debts the club still carries and Short’s reluctance to put more money in because he would rather find a buyer and sell up, Bain is not in a position to splash the cash.

Bain told reporters at the Fan Festival earlier this week at the Stadium of Light: “From a budgetary point of view, I’m not going to make promises and create expectation for the fans and risk false dawns, and I hope they respect that.

“At times there are messages that people don’t want to hear, but I hope that fans respect the fact that I am communicating with them and telling them the way it is.

“Ultimately, what has to happen is that we need wins on the pitch. If we get wins on the pitch, the mood changes and the confidence comes back, and people will start coming through the turnstiles in the manner that everybody is used to.”

Bain is effectively running the ship now that Short has decided to return to the United States to live rather than London. His house in the capital is on the market and relocating to Florida is believed to be partly down to the fact his son, a talented tennis player, has taken up a scholarship there.

But Short, Sunderland’s billionaire owner who would still sell if the right deal came along, is still “engaged” with the club according to the man he has left to deal with the day-to-day running.

“Maybe because Ellis, in the past, before I was here, has spent an awful lot of money on players, there’s been a more significant visible investment, if you like, and Ellis was maybe getting around a little bit more,” Bain told local the Sunderland Echo.

“The fact he’s not around so much and the fact that fans don’t see the level of spending on the squad that they’re used to and our performances are where they are, then there’s an automatic assumption that the owner is disengaged, that he doesn’t care about the football club.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. He interacts with me and I believe he’s emotionally invested in Sunderland AFC. I hear him after the games and if the performances aren’t what he expects the performances to be, he’s not a shrinking violet and he quite rightly expresses his opinions.

“If he didn’t care about the football club he wouldn’t express his opinion so from my perspective he’s still an owner that’s very much engaged.”

Bristol City, after hammering Crystal Palace in the EFL Cup, are next up on Wearside on Saturday and they are pressing to climb into the play-off places.

Thousands of empty seats, probably more than half the capacity, have been seen in home matches so far this season, with Grayson and Bain knowing that needs to improve to boost morale and the chances of a revival.

Grayson wants to have a plenty of selection options to stand a better chance of delivering better results, having improved their attacking output in the last few matches.

But he needs to shore things up at the back, highlighted by the way they surrendered a 3-1 lead at Brentford last weekend to draw.

Tyias Browning is still struggling with a hamstring problem and Marc Wilson is nearing a return. Those those two players are key options for him to have at the back.