What’s happening at Sunderland AFC? Not much on the face of it

With no interest in the final of the European Championships later this evening, Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson‘s thoughts have centered around the apparent lack of activity at the Stadium of Light. Is this a cause for concern or reassuring that the club is avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes of the past few close seasons?

A younger, slimmer Malcolm Dawson with SuperKev.
A younger, slimmer Malcolm Dawson with SuperKev.

Reading Between the Lines

It is now 10 days since the transfer window opened. It is also 10 days since Martin Bain officially assumed his duties as chief executive. During this opening spell of non activity, we have sat back and seen our local rivals on Tyneside and Teesside actively recruiting and releasing players while all remains quiet at the Stadium of Light.

As we all wait for things to happen on Wearside speculation is rife, but precious little in the way of hard facts is coming our way. Several players have been linked with the club but so far with no new faces arriving, or familiar faces returning and there has been an unsettling amount of conjecture regarding the position of our manager.

Though I must confess I have found it difficult to get excited about the national team since the night I sat in a ground floor flat in Gunnersbury, West London in 1973, listening to Brian Clough describe the Polish goalkeeper as a clown, I would have been so much happier had England got through to the final of the Euros this time. Not only might it have reignited my interest in the game at this level but it would have meant that Roy Hodgson would still have been in a job and Big Sam would not be being touted as his replacement.

For me, this is the biggest worry just now. I’m sure he is being totally professional with the squad out in Austria but unless he’s been told something that hasn’t been made public his mind can’t be 100% focused on his club while there’s still a chance his country will come calling.

Sam Allardyce - a Sunderland love story
Sam Allardyce – a Sunderland love story

I’d love to think that he decided at the end of last season (if not before) that he has found a spiritual home and wants to mastermind the revival of our club and is here for the long term. I’d love also to think that he can see that being the boss of the national side is a poisoned chalice but he has made no secret of the fact that he once wanted the job and I fear he would find it hard to turn down if the F.A. approached him with a lucrative deal. Despite my reservations on his appointment I have been convinced by his achievements to date and have enjoyed the way the team have been playing. More than anything the squad have been playing with passion and commitment but I am also impressed with the way he is integrating younger players into the squad. It may be that he had to use the players he had at his disposal in a way that was effective and that he has plans to change the set up and style of play but more than anything we need a period of stability.

What else can we read into the non events of the past ten days? I have no mole inside the boardroom and I may be making two and two equal six in what follows but what follows is me trying to make sense of the various snippets that have emerged in the media.

Just when we thought the club was about to make the first signing of the summer it came out with the following statement. Sunderland AFC will not be pursuing its interest in Inter Milan player Davide Santon, after negotiations between the two clubs failed to reach a positive conclusion.”  What can we surmise from that? Is this the first outward sign of Bain’s approach to his job. The club are not in the habit of commenting on transfers until deals are completed so why the change?

Two things immediately sprang to mind. Firstly the possibility that negotiations with Spurs regarding Yedlin had progressed to the stage where his return might be imminent. Secondly, that the terms of the deal were unacceptable to one or other of the clubs with Inter demanding the entire payment up front and Sunderland wishing to pay in instalments or inserting a proviso that the player made a minimum number of appearances before some of the agreed fee became payable. With his recent injury record that would be understandable but with SAFC and Inter still in dispute over the Ricky Alvarez affair it’s not hard to see why negotiations between these two clubs might not all be sweetness and light. Of course I may be wide of the mark, but Bain has to deal with a mess not of his making.

Yann M’Vila is reportedly not training with his club’s first team squad. It’s no secret we want him back. Fans and management. It’s also no secret that he is on astronomical wages that Sunderland are unlikely to match. Are other clubs interested? Is Sunderland playing a game of brinkmanship? I’d like to feel that all parties involved are talking, looking to compromise and I remain hopeful that the Frenchman will become part of the long term plan. But I expect alternatives are on the radar.

Diafro Sakho – is he isn’t he? Mixed reports suggesting here is a player Sam knows well and got on well with at West Ham on the one hand whereas others suggest he was signed by David Sullivan when Allardyce wasn’t keen. We need another striker, no doubt. Is he the one and would it suggest that the Boss is contemplating a more direct and robust style of play? I don’t know but I think I’d rather him than Gomis.

Still part of Sam's plans?
Still part of Sam’s plans?

And speaking of Swansea what’s happening with Ayew? More of a wide man but with Jeremain Lens and Charles N’Zogbia it would seem that the manager may be considering his options in that department. It’s no secret that a centre half, a full back and a striker are top priorities. Hanging on to Lens and taking a look at N’Zogbia might just free up the resources to consider better quality signings in those other departments.

The domino effect could well see a flurry of activity both in and out of the club in the not too distant future. So far Vergini is the only one who has gone who wasn’t out of contract. If Giaccherini signs for one of the Serie A sides supposedly interested, then maybe the Ayew deal will go ahead or maybe if Inter is one of those interested, the Santon deal might well be back on. Remember Kone?

If West Ham sign a striker then perhaps Sakho will put pen to paper. M’Vila’s return could well see the end of Seb Larsson as a Sunderland player and surely Adam Matthews will be off if and when another full back comes in.

Bridcutt, Buckley, Gomez and Mavrias are no doubt on the radar of other clubs but knowing they are not part of Allardyce’s plans those clubs will be looking to sign them at bargain rates all of which will impinge on Bain’s ability to offer deals to new players and stay within the Financial Fair Play rules.

All ifs and buts at this stage but with the new season just five weeks away the clock is ticking. Let’s hope that come the opening day we are set to go, knowing the manager is not about to walk away, that all transfer deals are done and dusted and that Fabio Borini’s hair is back to it’s usual colour. I won’t hold my breath.

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2 thoughts on “What’s happening at Sunderland AFC? Not much on the face of it”

  1. A good thought provoking article which will hopefully attract many replies and liven up a pretty dormant site at the moment. I fear Big Sam is first choice for the England poisoned chalice, which could end up being his last job in football, when he inevitably gets the sack after another “golden generation” lets him down in the early stages of a tournament. Tell them to shove it Sam! Moving on to transfer targets, none of the names mentioned, apart from Ayew, have got me excited. Sakho, Santon, N’Zogbia? None are improvements on the current squad. I think we’ve seen the last of M’Vila too, sadly. I would have taken Ritchie and Gayle but they’ve chosen to further their careers in the EFL!!

    • Sakho and Santon don’t excite you but you would take a Bournmouth and CP reserve who could get a game in front of Wickham. Strange.

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