Over the weekend a certain British tabloid seemed to go that one step further with regards to the usual transfer tittle tattle and reported that Sunderland has "signed" both James Collins and Stephen Warnock from, who else, but Aston Villa. This sent social media into meltdown as is customary these days and many took the conjecture to be fact, although I personally was of the opinion that this was simply fans desperate for any kind of transfer news what-so-ever just to ease the pre-season tedium.
Surprise, surprise, hours and subsequently days have passed since this story "broke" and neither Collins nor Warnock (never mind both) have been spotted anywhere near Seaham Hall. So is this another case of wild gossip to fill column inches or is there possibly some grain in truth to the reports and if so are the Villa duo the type of player that would improve Sunderland's current squad.
On the face of it the story which developed over the weekend is more than likely to be little more than lazy journalism which seems to currently plague our club since O'Neill's arrival whereby all that is required to put together a SAFC transfer piece is to link the North East club to any Aston Villa player or alternatively anyone who Newcastle are reportedly interested in as well. I'm sure I am not the only one becoming frustrated with this narrow-minded approach and has become accustomed to dismissing all links as nothing more than wild speculation with no substance.
However this transfer tale avoided the use of the usual terms that are usually thrown about at this time of year; "reportedly", "linked with", "close to a move", you know the ones, they're as easy to predict as a Steve Bruce press conference. Instead this story reported that the players had "signed" which would imply a lot more legitimacy than the usual transfer tale. Of course there were no accompanying pictures of either player outside of the Academy with an overpriced scarf from the club store held above their heads. In fact both Collins and Warnock were part of Villa's squad currently on tour in the US, never mind the fact that SAFC's contingent was still trying to flog some shirts at the Peace Cup at the time.
Let's for a moment play ball with the newspapers and have some faith in the piece as just because the players aren't now part of MON's squad as it currently stands there is still plenty of time in the window for things to change. Would Collins and Warnock be worthwhile signings?
On the face of it the club is heavily stocked with central defenders as Carlos Cuellar, another Villa old boy, has already added to the burgeoning defensive ranks. Therefore, if Collins was to be added to the mix you would have to assume that it would be at the expense of some of those that find themselves on the fringes of the squad; Bramble, Kilgallon possibly even Michael Turner? A quick look on some of the Villa message boards for a Villain's perspective on the proposed deal doesn't make for pleasant viewing with the vast majority seemingly delighted at the news that their central defender may be moving on. Personally I wouldn't rate Collins any higher than Michael Turner, in fact the two would appear to be very similar players and as such there seems little value in the deal. The recent injury to Wes Brown may force O'Neill to re-evaluate his options but the Collins/Warnock story was published well in advance of Brown's injury.
So what about Stephen Warnock? With Kieran Richardson the club's only experienced, "recognised" left-back at present, the position is clearly a potential weak link at the club should Richardson suffer injury or, as had been reported this summer, be on his way out of the club. Sure Jack Colback could do a job there, Blair Adams could make the step up to the first team squad but both solutions to the potential problem come with their own risks. Again, trying to gauge Villa fans' reaction to their left-back's potential exit from their message boards did not exactly put me at ease, with the vast majority happy to see him leave. Comparing Warnock to Richardson as well is a non-starter as despite some debate over his suitability to the role Richardson is, for me at least, the much better player and I would rather see the club try and retain his services.
Interestingly enough, it did not take long for the cracks in the story's credibility began to be exposed, initially by Mrs. Warnock. Stephen's missus quickly took to her mobile device of choice to login in to twitter and announce that the newspaper's story was the first that she had heard of any transfer. So unless Stephen likes to keep his better half completely in the dark about upping sticks and moving to the North East, you would have to believe the WAG's version of events ahead of a column inch filling tabloid piece.
In fact the story has since been removed from the newspaper's website, only serves to further add to the lack of credibility associated with the article.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the wry smile that accompanies the more wild suggestions from the growing number of people claiming to be "in the know". My favourite so far this year has been talk of Fernando Llorente ignoring the advances of clubs such as Arsenal and instead choosing Sunderland as his destination of choice. The photoshopped images of Fernando, clad in all his Spanish finery striding past Jackie White's Market were quickly shared among fans revelling in the stories ridiculousness.
Whilst it would now seem that we can relegate the Collins/Warnock link to the growing pile of fabricated stories we have had to endure already this summer for the time being, I cannot help but wonder if the lazy journalists behind such wild speculation should be held accountable, especially in this case when the transfer was labelled as a done deal?