Over half-way through the season, we look back on how the new recruits from the start of our league 1 campaign have faired, from best to worst.
1. Jon McLaughlin: The Scottish keeper is definitely the signing of the summer, and all Sunderland fans should consider themselves lucky that Ross managed to steal him from Hearts. The shot stopper has broken into the Scottish national team and is certainly a breath of fresh air from the utter dross we suffered last year.
2. Jack Baldwin: The ex-Peterborough captain has been brilliant throughout the season. From making fantastic last ditch tackles, to showing excellent vision and range of passing, Baldwin has contributed massively to Sunderland’s League 1 campaign.
3. Tom Flanagan: Baldwin’s defensive partner, Flanagan was signed as a utility man who could do a satisfactory job across the back four. However, as the other centre-halves have shown their deficiencies, Flanagan has stepped up to the challenge and remained calm and composed under pressure.
4. Reece James: There seems to be a theme here, as the first four players are all defensively minded. The former Wigan man has outshone Bryan Oviedo at left-back by showing a consistency going forwards and back. He has shown a willingness to defend that is refreshing in the left back position after recent years.
5. Chris Maguire: The king has been somewhat of a surprise package this season; signed on a free with mixed reports from Bury, Sunderland fans had every right to be concerned about wether or not Maguire was the right character for the squad. He has surprised everyone with stellar performances, and just recent injury struggles have kept the king from climbing further in the rankings.
6. Luke O’Nien: The energetic midfielder failed to impress in his debut against Charlton, and took a while to adapt to the club. It was clearly a huge step up from Wycombe, but when O’Nien stood in at right back for the injured Adam Matthews he stood out for all the right reasons. Since this revelation at right back, Luke has been earning plaudits for his outstanding energy and willingness to improve and adapt.
7. Dylan McGeouch: Since arriving from Hibs where McGeouch won player of the season, the Scottish midfielder has split opinion. Some fans claim that he gives the ball away too easily and too often, but some fans notice his excellent positioning and appreciate his ball retention.
8. Max Power: Max has impressed with his box-to-box ability to make important tackles, pick out a long diagonal ball and then manage to get into the right position on the edge of the box. However Dylan McGeouch edges the scouser slightly as the man with possibly the greatest name in football has gone quiet recently, after his flurry of red cards.
9. Alim Ozturk: The burly centre-half struggled against Charlton at the start of the season, and hasn’t had much of a look-in in the league. However the Turk has performed solidly when called upon in the Checkatrade trophy, where he’s gathered a number of clean sheets on the road to Wembley. He may have had a second chance in the league if it wasn’t for the formidable partnership of Baldwin and Flanagan- in addition to the recent loan signing of Jimmy Dunne.
10. Charlie Wyke: Our most expensive summer signing came with a lot of fanfare from Bradford, as Sunderland fans expected guaranteed goals from an experienced number 9 at this level. However, due to two successive long-term injuries Wyke has struggled to kick on, and has appeared sluggish and cumbersome in recent weeks. Hopefully Will Grigg can help lift the burden off of Wyke, and release some of the pressure from the striker.
11. Glenn Loovens: The 35 year old defender has struggled with injuries this season. To be fair to the B-TEC John O’Shea, Ross didn’t sign the Dutchman with playing him in mind- he would be a good, experienced character to have around the dressing room. Would it have really hurt to keep John O’Shea around for another season before taking him on as a coach?