AS the pressure mounts on Simon Grayson at the Stadium of Light, the Sunderland manager has described an intention to emerge from the “toughest spell” of his managerial career ahead of two matches that are likely to determine his future.

Grayson headed straight for the tunnel at the Stadium of Light on Saturday after the final whistle had blown on the seventh home game of the season which had ended without a victory for the Black Cats.

The 2-1 defeat to Bristol City has left Sunderland sitting second from bottom in the Championship and angry supporters booed and chanted ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ as the players left the pitch.

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The mood was depressing afterwards, with players and Grayson clearly dejected after a failure to win again and attentions turn to tomorrow night’s visit of bottom club Bolton and Sunday’s trip to North-East neighbours Middlesbrough and he is determined to succeed.

Despite a willingness to give Grayson a chance to succeed from within the boardroom, the pressure on his shoulders will grow again if they fail to end the long wait for a home win at the Stadium of Light against the Trotters.

Attacking midfielder Jonny Williams described the game as “make-or-break” after losing to Bristol City, while Grayson knows there is nowhere to hide after winning just one of his 14 league matches in charge.

Grayson said: “Of course it is (toughest spell). I’ve been through stages where I’ve lost games but I think the magnitude of this football club and the size of it makes it even more difficult.

“And what’s gone off previously, where at other clubs you lose matches but you haven’t got other factors that contribute to the criticism you’re getting. But I’m too long in the tooth to worry about criticism. I accept it, of course I do, but I’m a fighter and I keep fighting.”

Grayson has the support of the dressing room. There was genuine dejection after losing to Bristol City because the players know that it will be the manager who loses his job if they can’t deliver positive results for him.

He said: “Ultimately I’m looking for a reaction and a desire to have a go again and not feel sorry for themselves. I need them to go out there and be pro-active, don’t wait for something negative to happen. 

“Let’s be on the front foot and have a go. That’s all the supporters want us to do. They want to see players running around, putting balls in the box and having a right go. That’s not been there for the supporters against Bristol City.

“I think they’re a genuine bunch (of players) who do care about it but individually they’ve got contracts like at any football club where they’ll be here for that length of contract.  “But I do genuinely believe they’re an honest bunch of players that have been affected by results. That can change quickly and you will see a different approach from them then.”

It is no secret of the problems Grayson inherited when he decided to leave Preston to take the challenge on. With little money to spend he still gave the squad an overhaul and brought in ten new players despite spending just £1.5m.

The effect of relegation had also taken its toll on the club, but the fact he has been unable to address a depressing run of games without a win at the Stadium of Light dating back to December 17 has magnified the problems.

Grayson said: “It is a major obstacle to get over, winning at home and the confidence in doing certain jobs. We have players who have been at a good level who are surprising me with some of the decisions they make, and the urgency we need to go and win games. 

“Players cross the line and have to go out and win the game. I am not shirking responsibility, I will set the team up. When they cross that line, as I did as a player, they have to do what they are required to do by the manager.”

Grayson has not really gone down the line of criticising his players before but, after winning just one of his matches in charge this season and losing seven, he felt he had to after seeing mistakes cost Sunderland against the Robins.

He said: “They are a decent bunch. I am not having a go at them but I have stuck by them for a long time now. We have to make sure they do what is required to get a result for everyone. 

“Supporters get very frustrated with the situation and we have to get a result on Tuesday and Sunday at Middlesbrough. I have to galvanise the group, have a go at one or two if I need to. 

“Hopefully we are talking about a positive result on Tuesday. They are not putting performances in that some players are capable of. We have players to turn it round and we are striving to do that.”

Grayson is merely the latest manager to have encountered massive problems on Wearside. He added: “All I try to do is be positive with the players. There are far worse things in life than, and in general, playing before supporters at the Stadium of Light. 

“The desire and spirit is needed to go and do that. We didn’t get the break against Bristol City. 

“I have a motivation to be successful because in 12 years I’ve been out of work probably six weeks as a manager so somewhere down the line I’m doing a good job and I’ve got trust in my players at times, I trust my ability, I know what I’m doing. 

“Unfortunately things are not happening for us at this moment in time but I’ll keep believing what I’m doing is the right thing because it’s been proved in the past.

“It tests you the criticism you get and it makes it difficult for you, your family and your friends because that makes you stronger. There’s certainly a real inner desire to get things right.”