It doesn’t matter where you are today; at work in the office or the factory, at home on your arse, a student hungover in bed, you just can’t help but get caught up in the hysteria that is transfer deadline day. A day which involves minimal productivity in your daily routine, replaced instead by endlessly searching for the elusive blue tick of authenticity of journalists on Twitter and constant refreshing of forums and official sports websites for any possible snippet of incoming transfer deals.
Perhaps transfer deadline day is everything that is wrong with modern day football - the excessive craving of expenditure for a signing on a particular day of a window that has been open for a month already. But it is that fan frenzy which continues to fuel the fire of the Sky Sports football propaganda machine where time and/ or money is exchanged for online clicks, views and interactions. It, in itself, is a debate which can be saved for another day but as Jim White irons out the creases of his infamous yellow tie, Sunderland once again find themselves immersed in this deadline day façade.
It has been five days since Josh Maja sealed his inevitable move away from Sunderland to Bordeaux, swapping the North Sea coastline for the Bay of Biscay, and yet with only hours remaining there is somewhat of a familiar panic setting in on Wearside with the 20-year-old striker still to be suitably replaced.
The constant name which has been linked throughout the window is that of Wigan’s Will Grigg. But with five bids reportedly being rejected by the Latics this month, the past 36-hours have seen any number of strikers names role off the conveyor belt to be linked with a move to the Stadium of Light – something that resembles a little bit of panic and a scattergun approach depending on whether or not you believe everything you read from the aforementioned blue ticks.
One thing is for certain however, the next couple hours are crucial to Sunderland’s season and whether or not it finishes on May 4 or conceivably on May 26. In Maja, Sunderland had a player directly responsible for 17 of the 48 goals scored this season with 15 goals and two assists. His strike rate of a goal every 118 minutes betters that of any other in League One and to put it bluntly is an integral part of why Sunderland find themselves ‘in the mix’ at the right end of the table.
Losing over a third of a goal scoring threat would be a loss to any club – let alone one chasing promotion. With Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore struggling for form and fitness amidst their lengthy lay-offs in the treatment room it is imperative Sunderland find a solution at the top end of the pitch today. Irrespective of Maja’s goals, Sunderland have struggled in recent weeks to put teams away and as a result have succumbed to a number of frustrating draws. You would be forgiven for feeling a little worried if Maja’s input was not replaced with somebody who could offer a similar return in the remaining 19 games.
The main objective is, and always has been, promotion this season – by whichever means possible – and is ultimately what the season will be judged upon. Regardless of how the rest of today plays out, you would suspect that Sunderland have enough about the squad already to at least finish in the top six come the end of the season. But if Sunderland are to fail in their bid for promotion then January will be looked back upon as a significant period of the season. Is the fee received for Maja worth the club not securing promotion? Would they have been better off, reluctantly, allowing Maja to leave for a minimal fee in a tribunal case in the summer after promotion had been secured with his goals? Time will tell.
The mid-season buffers are very much on at the moment despite the games in hand and the theoretical potential to hit the front of the pack should those games be won. The week off should have given those off the field the opportunity to ensure that come 23.00 this evening there is reason to remain optimistic ahead of the rest of the season starting a home game against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
As it stands there is no reason to panic, with activity evidently on-going at the club throughout the day. But while we continue to hit the refresh button and get inundated with clichés such as ‘transfer saga,’ ‘Sky sources,’ and ‘awaiting confirmation’ it is imperative that Sunderland get it right by the close of play. It could be season defining.