With the passing of transfer deadline day, Lee Johnson seems to now have a better group of players for how he wants to play. Now is a good time to reflect on the month and asses the deals made…
The first signing of the Lee Johnson era, Winchester joined the lads from League Two outfit Forest Green Rovers. So far, he’s looked tidy on the ball if a bit passive. The midfield man has been described by the gaffer as Championship quality but in limited minutes here, he is yet to show it. The main issue with this transfer for me is that it’s just more of the same. We already have Josh Scowen, Grant Leadbitter and Max Power to play this role in the team and money spent on Winchester could have been put to better use around the squad.
This short-term loan signing was a much-needed addition to our options at left back. With Denver Hume still out, Callum McFadzean has been our only left back for a while. It’s obvious that defending is not the ex-Plymouth man’s strength and opposing teams often target him. Vokins comes from Southampton, a club well known for producing some excellent youngsters and giving them a proper footballing education. He’s also featured for the Saints’ first team recently, some experience that could be invaluable to our promotion campaign.
Another promising short-term loan, Jones should add that extra bit of pace and quality on the wings. The Rangers man has been excluded from Steven Gerrard’s squad since breaking lockdown rules in November, so will be hoping to impress on Wearside and play his way back into Gerrard’s plans. With McGeady, Diamond and the return of Gooch, we aren’t exactly short of options out wide, but Jones’ flair and trickery could help in breaking down resolute defences. It also means that at such a young age, Diamond won’t be exposed to too much football and if he sees a dip in form, there’s an option to take him out of the firing line for a while.
The final transfer in from January, Stewart seems to have a fair amount of promise. In Scotland, the striker doesn’t have the most convincing goal record, scoring just two goals in nineteen games this season. However, he has played much of the campaign out wide and is 6 foot 2 and possesses pace, so he could play the “Aiden O’Brien” role and get the best out of Wyke. His energy and enthusiasm will help the team play the intense pressing game that Lee Johnson mentioned when he came in, getting us higher up the pitch.
One of many exits I’m sure most fans are pleased with, Dobson joins AFC Wimbledon on loan. Unfortunately for Dobson, he seemed to have the right sort of character but was simply not good enough to play for Sunderland. Hopefully the midfielder can prove himself at Wimbledon and earn a move to somewhere else in League One to continue his career.
Feeney played one game for us, we won 8-1 and he scored! Despite that fantastic record, it seems a good idea to let the young centre back leave on a free to Carlisle after a stint on Wearside plagued with injuries. We never got to see the ex-Everton man at his best, but his departure frees up some wages and allows him to thrive at a lower level.
Wow. Where to start with Danny Graham’s second spell at Sunderland. It seems like Graham and Sunderland are cursed, something never quite clicks when the two come together. The 35-year-old was a favourite of Phil Parkinson’s for some reason, despite never looking fit, never putting the ball in the net, being a Mag and having shit hair. Under Johnson it was clear that Graham would feature less regularly and wasn’t up to the standard set by Charlie Wyke, the man on form this season.
One of the biggest figures of humiliation in the Stewart Donald era, the Netflix star became a symbol of every mistake the owners have made. Overspending, taking huge gambles and not doing the correct research on the playing staff. It is such a shame that Grigg never got going here because he’s shown everywhere else that he’s more than capable of scoring at this level. However, he never looked interested or motivated on Wearside, failing to recapture his form from other clubs. Perhaps a successful loan at MK Dons will allow Donald and co to recoup a small percentage of the vast funds they wasted on the striker.
Certainly, one of the most opinion-splitting deals of this January, Embleton was allowed to join Blackpool on loan on deadline day. He hasn’t shown a whole lot in his time at Sunderland, despite impressing last season at Grimsby. Kristjaan Speakman has outlined a progression plan for Embleton which suggests the youngster will still have a part to play when he returns to the Stadium of Light. Hopefully more regular playing time at Blackpool will allow Embleton to regain form and come back fully developed and ready to solidify his place under Lee Johnson next year.
Overall, this has been one of the most interesting transfer windows in a while. We’ve been astute with fees, haven’t chased anyone all window and haven’t sold any star players for pennies. Minor tweaks have been made to the squad in order to maximise our chances of promotion, and certain players have been allowed to go out on loan so that when they return, we can potentially sell them for a lot more money in the summer. Everything seems to have a plan and logic behind it, which is a lot more than you can say about Sunderland’s signings in the past ten years or so. Let’s hope it works out…