With Sunderland woefully short up front, the news that Joel Asoro will join Swansea today, for £2million, will not go down well with many of the faithful. However, the truth is we were always going to struggle to hang onto Asoro, once his agent turned his head with pound signs. It does however make Jack Ross’ job a little harder and the need for him to bring in a couple of goal scorers is now crucial, if we are to mount a serious promotion challenge. In short, we need to spend some money. Free transfers alone will not get us out of League One.
Elsewhere, Jack Ross is hoping for an improvement on the Darlington performance when his team face Hartlepool United this weekend. “It will be very much a reverse from Tuesday in terms of personnel,” he said. “The guys who only got 30 minutes tonight will get the best part of an hour, but I think we need to be better in several aspects. Our quality and our work out of possession [needs to improve], and these are things we only have a few days to prepare for. We’re trying to get a lot of information across to the players in a short period of time, but they know as well as I know that Tuesday was a long way off of where need to be at for the first league game. Hartlepool offers us another opportunity to take small steps forward.”
Meanwhile, Robbin Ruiter is ready to put his disastrous first season at Sunderland behind him and battle it out with Jon McLaughlin for the goalkeeper’s jersey. “I was really unlucky last year with injury, I always said to everybody that it is an honour and a big challenge for me to play at Sunderland,” said Ruiter. “I have had some good moments and some less good moments last season. I think I can do way better than I showed last season and I want to show everybody what kind of goalkeeper I am. For me, the challenge is to play every week and to show myself in a positive way and hopefully we can do it as a whole team, play at the top of the league. We all have that goal, to get back to the Championship as soon as possible. Jon [McLaughlin] is a really good lad – we are both at a similar age. We get on really well together and support each other in training and games and push each other to a higher level. At the end of the day, the gaffer will make the decision in terms of who plays and who doesn’t. If it is me, then Jon will support me and if it is Jon I will support him. We all have the main goal to get Sunderland back to the Championship. It is great to be back out on the pitch. Obviously, it has been a while after my finger injury last season which ended my season. I did my rehab all summer in Holland and trained over there and everything is now fine. I feel comfortable on the pitch again. I’ve had a good couple of weeks training since we returned and these were my first real minutes in a game.”
Ruiter also admitted that there is a completely different atmosphere about the place, since the takeover: “I am happy to be back. A lot has changed since my last game! Hopefully we can have a good season with new owners, new manager. Everything is new. We need to look forward now and move on. Normally during the summer there will always be changes at a club, always. It doesn’t matter what team, what club, there is always changes. Sometimes the manager or players coming in and out, but this year at Sunderland there has been a lot of changes with the new owner and manager, a different league. You can be really negative about everything [relegation], but we need to move forward now and take the positives. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes in the past, look forward and make it a good season. That is the most important thing. You can’t make any difference to the past, but we can to the future.”
Still with keepers and Sunderland have given a week-long trial to former Manchester United goalkeeper Max Johnstone. Max’s older brother, Sam, was also at Man United and has just joined West Brom having spent last season on loan at Aston Villa.
In other news, Head physiotherapist Peter Brand has given a detailed update on Duncan Watmore’s ACL rehab and recovery. “We are seven months into a nine to 12-month period of rehab,” he said. “It is his second operation, so we are always going to be a little bit more cautious with this one. The reality is that Duncan is doing extremely well. He is seven months down the line and we are hopeful of getting him back within that nine to 12-month period. He has been in Portugal over the last week to take his rehab to the next level. Everything he has done up to now is very much strength and straight line running. He has progressed quickly and now he is running offline and he has got the footballs out. In the background he is continuing all his strength work. A big thank you has to go to David Binningsley for all the tireless work he has done with him over the last two years. Duncan is now in a very good position to push on and he has got an excellent base to work from. He is working now with more the sport science side of things. The process over the next couple of months is to continue with the conditioning on the pitch and ball work, so that gradually he is progressing to being ready to train.”