Transfer news: there isn’t much, but should we really worry?

Jake: 'has Messi signed yet?'
Jake: ‘has Messi signed yet?’

Others clubs are doing business and when that happens, and your own is – publicly – doing none, it is natural to wonder what is going on.

I have argued repeatedly over the years since Roy Keane led Sunderland back to the Premier that the best thing to do with most transfer speculation is to ignore it.

There are exceptions. Jordan Henderson’s departure was well flagged for some time, as were the pursuits of Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and – though it ended unhappily – Fabio Borini. No journalistic hype was necessary to keep readers, listeners and viewers informed with what turned out to have been reasonable accuracy.

But often enough, we simply do not know what – in our case – the sporting director Lee Congerton and head coach Dick Advocaat – may be up to, with regard in inbound or outbound players, and that is surely how it should be.

The wisest option is to disregard most rumours linking us with named players until something is said that makes us realise it’s serious. I would accept that a deal to sign Sebastian Coates permanently is probably in the offing, as reported, and that we are genuinely trying to sign Stewart Downing. As for the rest of what we’ve read, best taken with a lorryload of salt.

James Hunter drew some flak when he made a similar point in the Chronicle. It was a short and somewhat inconclusive piece but the essence, citing the case of PSV Eindhoven’s midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, was that supporters should always be wary of “smoke and mirrors”.

The point, missed by Hunter’s detractors, is that agents and clubs play a full part in fuelling speculation, with enough touting, floating and steering to make media extravagance with the truth seem almost innocent. That, at least, is my impression.

Sunderland have often been the victim of such tactics used by others to obtain better/geographically more agreeable deals elsewhere. But I dare say thoughts are also planted in the right places from time to time by club sources wishing to alert everyone to the availability of this or that surplus player.

I wrote about this the other day at ESPN:

Sunderland’s official club website used to offer a series called “rumour mill” which helpfully pulled together all the newspaper, broadcast and online speculation about potential ins and outs.

There was no hint of how accurate any report might be, and most of us know from experience how much doubt to apply to the bulk of the gossip.

It was still an interesting if rarely dependable guide for supporters, but there was also a suspicion of hypocrisy and this probably led to the feature’s demise. After all, football managements generally adopt a public position of disapproving of speculation that is most commonly the product of agents’ strategy for getting the best deals for players, journalistic invention or the clubs themselves.

I mentioned that we have been told of Sunderland’s interest in, among others, Downing, Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori, Wijnaldum, Fenerbahce forward Moussa Sow and Roma’s centre-back Davide-Astori.

Any or all, I suggested, may or may not be genuine targets. Should we necessarily discard Ilori because his dad – also his agent – notoriously said Sunderland was a “cold city”? How can we be sure even that wasn’t a ploy, a hint to Congerton that he should get our owner and chief executive, Ellis Short and Margaret Byrne, to foot the bill for his thermals, gloves and a decent central heating system at home?

Someone on Twitter saw the item and replied:

No problems with that, though you’d need to be blind and/or deaf not to know some fellow-supporters are, as I had noted, impatient for transfer news. “Nor am I,” I assured Deano, “but some are. Maybe I should run a poll.”

I confess to looking on in some envy when I see others – even newly promoted clubs – quicker off the mark, and to worrying in general about the difficulty all SAFC managers face in attracting good players to our part of the world.

But I see no reason for panic or even real concern. Advocaat’s respect in the game should count for something; we may well have learned from Swansea’s approach that it’s useful to encourage good but unconvinced targets to see us, if they must, as a stepping stone.

Then it’s up to the team collectively, Advocaat and whoever succeeds him to achieve enough to make people want to stay.

I suspect we will have something confirmed, and I don’t just mean Coates, before the pre-season games start. but I am not about to collapse in despair if we have to wait even longer.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake

6 thoughts on “Transfer news: there isn’t much, but should we really worry?”

  1. Seems like Coates is sealed, and Van Ginkel is a possibility. Maybe Advocaat is handling things backstage with the rumour of a promising young Dutch guy arriving on loan.

    Coates is a bargain compared to what we have already. And as for Liverpool, Rumour is Borini will go to West Ham. Good luck to them with him, he never impressed me.

  2. I think you should get the horse before the cart here. As the “detractor” from the pointless Chronicle article you mention, it was my intention to belittle Hunter because of his short meaningless put down of SAFC and the fact that the speculation of this player Wijnaldum, which incidentally was started by the media, not SAFC, was ironically “smoke and mirrors”. It is a contradiction in terms allowing press to come out with a poor headlines like that and why should we feel sorry for the NE press? Is it because they are waiting for little pieces to put together, hearsay for a mega scoop? Maybe, but in the interim they shower negativity towards the club with pointless put downs about internationals not wanting to come to Sunderland because it is covered with ice, or the players girlfriends hate the shopping centres of the North. Journalists have nothing to go off so use negatives to cause reaction. With regards to agents and clubs giving off speculation, I agree with you about the agents. An agent will put his player on the shelf so to speak. Agents + regional rag = Market place. I think you should not assume that SAFC have put out any speculative headlines since the Borini incident and I think they have learned greatly from this protracted situation. This may be hypocritical, but I think we are all journalists now, aren’t we?

    • Paul: welcome to the much higher journalistic towers of Salut! Sunderland.

      1) Roy Keane, not the wicked media, came up with the line about Wags not fancying the North East

      2) I really identified no slagging off of SAFC in the Hunter piece. He did say Wijnaldum probably had loftier ambitions and, much as it pains me to admit it, PSG – my least favourite French club – probably pull rank over us. Check out the stories linking him afresh with them ( he turned them down a year ago)

      3) I’d like to see your evidence that the Wijnaldum link with SAFC was all got up by the press. I’ve not seen any but will bow to your greater knowledge if I am wrong

      4) It was Ilori’s father, also his agent, who piped up about Sunderland being a cold city. Again, not a journalistic invention in sight. He said it and, to their credit, newspapers mocked him for doing so.

      5) I am 100 per cent sure SAFC brief/steer favoured journalists all the time. How else can the S Echo come up with instant but unattributed rebuttals of speculative stories published elsewhere? This process is natural, applies to most if not all clubs (though NUFC are naturally running out of people to brief, given their absurd and childish stance) and it neither started nor finished, in SAFC’s case, with Borini.

  3. Considering amount of the planks we’ve brought into our club in recent years less is most probably better .

  4. Many of the players already signed up would probably fall into 2 categories: a. too good (and expensive) for us and b. not good enough for us. We need to be making moves for decent, sensibly priced and sensibly paid players who will improve the squad/team. I would suggest there are not too many of those around. Congerton and Biggy Dicky will know who is available and will get them in eventually.

    • Get other peoples leavings, you mean. Thats no way to build a team, got to get in fast for who you want

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