Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain has overseen a turbulent time at the club since assuming his role in July, and confesses he’s encountered a side confused over its identity and in need of a more basic approach to its rebuild.

Bain succeeded Margaret Byrne, who was disgraced over her handling of former winger Adam Johnson’s guilty plea for sexual activity with a 15-year-old. He’s since had to deal with Sam Allardyce’s resignation and a team yet to record a league win under new manager David Moyes.

He asserts the Scot remains the right man to handle first-team matters, and instead wants to focus on an issue that infiltrates all aspects of the outfit.

“We want to get back to basics,” Bain told the club website. “We’ve got a football club here that has to be very synonymous with its northeast identity. The fans want that from the football club, and without being disparaging to anything that’s gone before I think its probably lost its identity. It’s tried sometimes to be a club that it’s not.”

Bain left a similar job at Maccabi Tel Aviv to head to England. He sees the Wearside project as a steady rebuild and – whether fans interpret it as showing a lack of ambition or not – a transfer policy of purchasing younger players who could yield profits in future sales.

“We can’t change the past, but we can change the future,” Bain said of his working relationship with Moyes. “From both our perspectives it’s about rebuilding.”

Low morale among the playing staff has to be addressed, though. Jermain Defoe, the primary source of goals and a senior member of the squad, says the group that escaped relegation last term has disintegrated, but doesn’t know why.

“From where we were last season towards the end I feel we’ve gone backwards a little bit,” Defoe told the Sunderland Echo’s Roy Kelly.

“I don’t know why, I can’t put my finger on it, but we’re not getting the results.”

If reports are to be believed, Defoe could be lining up with a new strike partner in January. The Black Cats are apparently pondering an approach for Southampton’s Shane Long, a player whose 213 Premier League appearances would inject some valuable experience, as well as Long’s Ireland teammate Robbie Brady of the Championship’s Norwich City.

Moyes and Bain are believed to be encouraging chairman and owner Ellis Short to pour some of his riches into the transfer kitty to allow such moves.

Sunderland faces a trip to West Ham United in Saturday’s slate of top-flight tilts.