It all makes sense you know. All the talk of greedy agents, of stripping out wages, of getting rid of pink seats, of engaging with fans. It all makes perfect sense. Who wouldn’t want to see the rotten guts ripped out of a club that has brought us a demise long awaited. Attached to the drip, the near dead body of a Premier League Sunderland was kept alive with the defibrillators of Great Escapes and the adrenaline shots of victories against the Mags.
For the rest of the seasons we suffered boredom, lacklustre and disappointingly familiar resignation to the inevitable. When the death knell was sounded some may have expected a resurgence and perhaps a clear out that meant we could start again, pressing the reset button and getting rid of the leeches of players that had attached themselves to our beloved club. It didn’t happen.
The effectiveness of securing fees for those leeches has been a success for the new board and one which must be congratulated. There is a backbone now which previously did not exist. There is a determination to rebuild and to do it in a way that gives the club a swagger. We are Sunderland and we will not be pushed around, pandering to agents and players only in it for financial gain. One thing is certain though, you cannot strip out those guts and replace them instantly.
In the final game last season, the youngsters swept past a Wolves team as the sun shone and the incoming chairman watched. There was great hope that day that we could rise again in great glory. League One would be fun. Everything since then has been an absolute whirlwind. The honesty in terms of how we were going to manage the transfer budget and wage levels was refreshing. It made perfect sense. There is still time of course but when I look at the current Sunderland squad my enthusiasm is dampened somewhat. I get that we need to keep within financial fair play rules for the league and that is slanted because of the players remaining on our books but there is a certain amount of uneasiness as we draw closer to the transfer deadline.
If you look at the two automatically promoted teams from League One last season they had quality in their squad. You could argue we do too but that would mean we would be looking to Lee Cattermole as a midfield general, pulling the strings and allowing dinky Dylan to provide the creativity and industry. Do we trust that Cattermole will be able to do that week in, week out? No. You look at Will Grigg and Danny Graham from last season and you wonder where our goals are coming from. The Asoro transfer inspired little confidence that we will hang on to Maja and that would leave us in an incredibly weak position up front. To be fair Asoro and Maja might not be up the fight in League One, they are only bairns who have played a handful of games in the worst team in our history.
It’s early days and there is still business to be done but we need to lift the fans a bit with the signings. That lift has to come from a real statement centre forward signing. Someone who we know will get us a significant amount of onions in bags. Just two of our signings have genuinely excited me so far this season. The first was Jack Ross, the second Dinky Dylan. In Jack Ross we seemed to be acquiring a man who had an ideology and a plan for what Sunderland should look like as a team. I still believe that, albeit I think it will take time to get there. One thing I know about Sunderland fans is that they care passionately about the club. They know they should be one of the biggest clubs in the country and when there is talk of the biggest budget in League One and holding players to contracts to rot in the reserves that is music to many ears. There is an expectation created.
The truth is that there are messages in what has been said that collide. Frugality, sustainability versus a strong arm that will spend cash even if that means they have to hold players in the reserves who are our highest earners. With just a few weeks to go until the start of the new season and the closing of the transfer window we need a spark now more than ever. Yes, we need volume in terms of the playing squad, but we also need quality, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the final third. We don’t know who will still leave the club but if Gooch, Honeyman and Maja follow Asoro out of the door, what then?
Financial control is absolutely essential, but if getting out of League One is a two-year plan rather than just the one then the signings to date may just confirm that. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it being a two year plan but given the frenzy that has been whipped up since Charlie and Stewart rolled into town Sunderland now expects more. And why not? We are Sunderland. The biggest club in the league. Our fans will roar. However, we also know that if expectations are not met then the disappointment of those sat around the hospital bed of that Premier League club will return with familiarity. I don’t want to be sat there three months in with people questioning Jack Ross because I think that is the best managerial appointment we have made in a long time, but as it stands time is exactly what he is going to need. It’s time to bring out the big guns Stewart. It’s time to make that statement signing and get the quality we definitely need.