Malcolm Dawson, deputy editor, writes: this hiatus which falls between the end of season and the opening of the transfer window sees me scouring the media for scraps of gossip that may or may not indicate which way the club is going. Most of it will turn out to be idle speculation and bear little resemblance to what actually transpires between the 1st of July and the end of August.
If there has to be a transfer window at all, then I fall into the camp which feels it should end before the first game of the season. The comings and goings after kick off, do nothing to help develop a settled side in those crucial early fixtures. Last year we had played five games before the window closed and Borini, Yedlin and Toivonen were all signed after the league campaign had got well under way.
Mind you sealing deals early is only effective if the players brought in are going to have a positive impact on the squad. Our first four signings last year, all brought in by July 15, were Santiago Vergini, Sebastian Coates, Adam Matthews and Jeremain Lens in deals costing in excess of £12 million. I’ll leave you to form your own opinions as to how successful that bit of business was. And let’s not forget Ricky Alvarez – a situation which may still come back to bite the club on the metaphorical backside.
There is also an argument that there should be no January window and that clubs should operate with the same squad all season. Had that been the case we would be looking forward to Championship football next season but I can see the logic.
So we continue to be linked with a host of names, though without being privy to the inner workings of the club, there is no indication as to the truth behind the speculation. However, I am confident there is plenty being done behind the scenes, wheels are in motion and it won’t be too long before we get some concrete information.
In a previous article I was taken to task for using the term deadwood in reference to players who remain on the payroll but who are unlikely to feature in Sam Allardyce’s plans. (And today I notice the Echo uses the same term.) My dictionary defines deadwood as “(i) the parts of a tree or branch which are dead (ii) people or things which are no longer useful or who are superfluous to an organisation.”
Further research has come up with other definitions using terms such as “a useless person” so I can understand the criticism though that usage never even entered my mind, as I used it as metaphor for superfluous, not as a reflection of anyone’s personality or ability.
In a separate comment on another thread, it was suggested we do a squad analysis. Maybe later. It could be interesting to compare the points per game ratio when Rodwell started in place of Cattermole or Yedlin instead of Jones etc. Maybe that’s something that might occupy John Mac’s statistical brain during this quiet period.
We will all have our opinions about where the squad needs strengthening but I think we all know which players the club will be trying to move on.
I have no direct access to Big Sam’s thinking but it’s no secret who is unlikely to feature next season. Giaccherini, Vergini, Bridcutt, Mathews, Coates and Lens are all full internationals so there is no doubting their quality but there is no suggestion (apart maybe from Lens) they will feature under Allardyce. Mavrias, Gomez and Buckley are the others who are unlikely to get any playing time but who will still be valuable players in the right environment.
Something needs to be done to reduce the wage bill at the club and to allow these players to ply their trade. The Roberge situation frustrated me last season. OK he didn’t fit into the Sunderland set up but he’s a decent player who spent a whole year not playing for anyone, save a few games for the development squad. What a waste of talent and what a drain on the wage bill. I don’t know all the implications of financial fair play but would it not have been better all round to let him go to a club where he would feature regularly, even if it meant Sunderland AFC paying all his wages, than to have him stagnate for 12 months? Had he been allowed to go to a Championship side or a Ligue 1 or 2 team for a peppercorn loan payment would it have harmed the club?
Alternatively, rather than pay him for doing nowt could the coaching staff not have kept him in the squad and looked for a suitable back up role for him? From what I saw I thought he might have been better suited playing in midfield than as a centre back. Whatever, it just seems daft (and poor economics) to pay someone for doing virtually nothing unless having him around had a negative impact on the team’s performance.
Of the superfluous players mentioned above I would suggest that if Vergini is to remain on Wearside he should be considered as a possibility to fill the right back slot. He played well there two years ago and looked more secure on the flank than in the middle of a back four or as part of a back three. It was his appearances at full back that triggered the clause that committed the club to signing him full time. Jeremain Lens too I can still see being a valuable player for us – if his attitude is right. His goal against West Ham was quality.
My hope is that Sam and his back room staff not only know who they want to keep, but that identified targets who can have the same impact as Kone, Kirchhoff and Khazri can be brought in. I also hope that those players coming through the development squad are ready to challenge for first team action and come August we are ready to go from Day 1. The fact that PvA and Jermain Defoe have already signed contract extensions would suggest that the team spirit we saw towards the end of last season has had a positive effect on morale and hopefully these players and the others who fought so hard to avoid the drop, have been bitten by the Sunderland bug. A feeling of togetherness, a positive mindset, an affinity with the supporters and an unbelievable work ethic will be reflected in on the field performances.
Two other bits of information that have come out recently would suggest that a) the pre season schedule will be more beneficial than last year’s and b) our new change kit will be black (or less likely blue).
I don’t think the arduous training camps in the USA helped to prepare last year’s team adequately. Austria (and possibly France) seems much more sensible from a footballing perspective, though maybe not from a commercial one. Am I right when I detect Sam’s influence demanding a reduced emphasis on the business side of things and more on improvements in on the field performance? The first will surely follow the second whereas the reverse is less likely to work.
The unveiling of the pink and purple third kit seems rather strange. It might grow on me but my first impressions are not favourable. It was suggested, via “leaks” on social media a few weeks back that the first change kit was going to be black. If that were the case then we would need a third kit when playing at Bournemouth. Pink and purple would fit the bill.
The only other potential clash would be at Crystal Palace where, as happened the season before last (or was it the season before that?) the red and white stripes and the blue change kit were both unsuitable for the Selhurst Park fixture, despite the fact Stoke City played in their traditional colours there. But it is the fact there is less distinction between the third kit and the red and blue of Palace than the red and black of Bournemouth that leads me to feel that our second kit will indeed be black.
It looks like a trip to Hartlepool is on the cards again this year but for the next couple of weeks at least, thoughts will be guided by the speculation and suppositions of the quiet month of June.