Monsieur Salut discusses the need for a sensible balance between openness and discretion in the pre-season transfer market…
Who knows? By the time I finish writing this, or soon afterwards, Sunderland could have clinched the signings of two strikers, a central defender and a midfielder.
If so, the concerns I am about to address will seem unnecessary and pointless.
But does anyone else share my growing reservations about the indiscreet manner of our approach to recruitment? Well I can answer that. They do, or at least one supporter who posted at Twitter does – he made his view known in a robust fashion that would prevent his tweet’s reproduction at this site.
His complaint, and mine, is that Stewart Donald’s refreshing openness is beginning to look a little rash. The world knows all about our targets and even the progress being made towards signing them; that world includes the clubs we are seeking to do business with and others that might well start thinking, ‘Sunderland must be on to something – let’s have a sniff ourselves’.
If all goes to plan, the misgivings will be shown to be groundless.
But it does seem that Donald should spend a little less time discussing specific transfer developments on a fansite podcast.
This is not a case of sour grapes; the owner is fully entitled to grant favours to his preferred medium – Salut! Sunderland doesn’t even have a podcast, though it is worth pointing out that Wise Men Say first burst into life on our pages, and also has few resources and no physical Sunderland presence.
I am in favour of football clubs being as candid as possible with supporters. Ellis Short was not only secretive, but compounded his reclusiveness by then complaining, illogically, that he was forever being misrepresented by the media he so steadfastly refused to talk to.
Even our rightly praised new regime sticks to the absurdity of saying so-and-so has been signed or sold for “an undisclosed fee”. The amount is usually known, presumably because someone close to one of the clubs concerned has quietly revealed it, and it is reported anyway; moreover, if the speculated figure is hopelessly wrong, the club has only itself to blame. I also disagree with those who say we should believe nothing until there is an official club statement – SAFC has been notoriously slow in confirming done deals.
But there are sensible commercial limits to disclosure. Talking openly about the size of bids for named players, and then giving details – perhaps not all, but some – of how negotiations are proceeding seems to me to stretch beyond those limits. Maybe other clubs would have been interested in a certain young striker even if we’d said nothing about our own efforts to sign him, but we have certainly encouraged them to pay attention now.
I have previously recalled that when Roy Keane took us up to the Premier League, Sunderland went about its pre-season transfer business in a seriously prudent manner. I was authoritatively told that the vast majority of those reported to be targets were never of interest to us, while actual targets were as often as not unknown to the press and thus the public until and unless a signing was made.
I am sure that agents and clubs – and maybe a few players too – drop hints for strategic reasons, and also that some sportswriters and broadcasters will speculate wildly on the flimsiest of evidence. There may even be a trace of smart kidology in the pronouncements that have been made.
All I am saying is that we should be a lot more cautious about incomplete and possible vulnerable attempts to enlist the players we need.
And I’ll even take that back if Jack Ross gets the men he wants …