So, another transfer window has “slammed shut”, after 31 days of hyperbole, speculation and tedium we can focus all our attention on retaining our Championship status.
I may be showing cynicism beyond my 22 years, but I detest the transfer window and everything that comes with it. Even when we had a transfer budget greater than a yo-yo and a 10 pence mix-up, I didn’t enjoy the circus that surrounds it all.
For me it’s just another example of the game being moved further away from it’s humble origins and eating itself. Football is becoming an increasingly gladiatorial sport where hype, build-up and off-field drama is arguably more important the product we all consume on Saturday afternoon. It is no longer good enough to discuss an upcoming fixture in purely footballing terms, it’s about narrative and pre-match sniping from managers and players. There are long discussions about what player x did to player z on international duty when they were both 20-year olds and how that will add to the drama. It’s not just Manchester United vs Liverpool, it’s red Monday and Klopp vs Mourinho. Every game must have a script and a back story, it’s more akin to a boxing match than a game of footy.
The transfer market is yet another example of this, whatever the pros and cons of the window, the primary function is for clubs to strengthen their squad and get rid of those they no longer want. Except, it is reported on in such a style that it has become a parody of itself. It is difficult for an adult not to cringe when Jim White appears on the telly sporting a yellow tie and a look only a man who has never been punched in the face can wear, with mobile phones scattered across the desk pretending to receive texts off agents. Then when inevitably nothing happens, you are still treated to him yelling about Kilmarnock signing a young left back from Celtic as if Messi has just signed for the Willow Pond.
The whole charade is capitalism on steroids, it’s no longer enough to balance the books or live within your means. Suddenly you have to spend £50 million to “show ambition”, and if you do spend £50 million then you should have spent £60 million and signed another striker, because Manchester City did.
All you need to do is peek at social media to see the dissatisfaction it causes, with every deal conducted there is a complaint that “we should have been in for him.” There is now a hyper awareness of every teams transfer business and it only adds to ill-feeling about your own team.
From a Sunderland perspective, we are quite fortunate to have a grounded fanbase and it is only natural that there is widespread annoyance at our lack of investment. But this month was always going be a long frustrating month. We knew that we would be dealing exclusively in the loan market which creates a whole new set of problems. Firstly, in order for a player to be loaned out they are either young and lacking in experience or on big wages and surplus to requirements at their parent clubs, who can’t get rid of them on a permanent deal.
Another issue with this strategy is that teams will be unwilling to loan players out until late on in the window in case of injuries in their squads and/or they make signings of their own. In addition to this, given our league position, players are going to think twice about joining us and wait for more stable options to come their way, which isn’t ideal when Chris Coleman has continually talked about players coming in who want to be on Wearside.
We saw with the Chris Martin saga how tricky reaching agreements can be, with Ben Woodburn we were also victims of the transfer market domino affect as Coutinho’s transfer to Barcelona forced Klopp to keep the youngster at Anfield.
So overall, we got just about what we could have hoped from this transfer window. Jake Clarke-Salter comes with good pedigree but lacks experience, which was exposed against Cardiff and Birmingham. Kazenga Lula has experience of the Championship and was promising on his debut on Tuesday night, but he was that out of favour at Brighton that they terminated his contract to get him off the books. Ovie Ejaria has been dubbed the “English Pogba” by some Liverpool fans, but his spell at Sunderland will be his first taste of senior football. Ashley Fletcher has been involved in large transfer fee’s in the past but has just two goals to his name in over 30 appearances for West Ham and Middlesbrough and Lee Camp comes with experience but a lack of match practice this season. In short, they all have the potential to improve our threadbare squad. However, they all have just as many, if not more reasons to be fearful than optimistic.
In terms of departures, we are a striker lighter than we were at the start of the month after Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan both jumped ship. Didier Ndong joined Watford until the end of the season and mystery man, Mika had his contract terminated. In terms of numbers we haven’t seen much of an increase, but in terms of mentality hopefully we will see a transformation.
I wholeheartedly support Chris Coleman’s attitude to the transfer market, despite a frustrating month on a shoestring budget he has remained upbeat and stuck to his guns. He has outed those who don’t want to be here, and where possible has moved them on. His handling of Jack Rodwell has been particularly impressive.
Given the resources available he has done well to attract the players he has and from now until the end of the season I would like a siege mentality to be generated around the club. We may not have much but these are the players we must work with from now until the end of the season. The gaffer trusts them, therefore so should we. Coleman is one of the few positives at the club and he has earned our unwavering support.