Sunderland Fans Should Not Fear The Transfer Bogeyman

Roker Report guest Phil Randle insists Sunderland's new recruitment model and must be afforded patience with another transfer window just about upon us.

The title of this is actually a bit misleading. I am not about to pen a warning to all Sunderland fans about the upcoming transfer dealings and insist that we all check under our beds on December 31st to ensure that Roberto De Fanti is not hiding there with Rade Prica's second cousin half removed.

It is quite the opposite in fact. Admittedly I am firmly in the camp that backs the club and their decisions for the most part, and lay the blame for the current troubles firmly at the door of the perennial failures that inhabit our squad, but I still think that the new Director of Football, Chief Scout and Head Coach system that is now in place receives a massive amount of misguided, uninformed criticism. Read on and I will try to explain why there is no need to panic - yet.

First and foremost, the system has been in place for ONE transfer window. Twitter, internet forums and newspaper comments sections are riddled with fans denouncing the utter failure of what is now in place. It is hardly a fair sample size to judge and base these claims on, is it? Especially when you look at the transfer dealings beforehand that had hardly been a roaring success either.

Can any of you remember the summer of 2011 under Steve Bruce? Or how about last January where we ended up paying money for Danny Graham and the wages of Kader Mangane? We have been on the receiving end of poor transfer windows for years and we should not be giving up on trying something new after one solitary attempt.

De Fanti, Angeloni and all of the others involved in our transfer dealings should be given the benefit of any doubt. Angeloni has a very solid track record and we do not know much about De Fanti but I am pretty confident that Ellis Short, the self-made billionaire, knows a bit more about what it takes to be a negotiator in business than John Smith the labourer from Pennywell and he has seen fit to give him the reigns.

The wall of secrecy that the club hides behind with most things has added to this issue, for me it is very much something of the club's own creation. Other than an interview in the Legion of Light we have heard next to nothing from or about De Fanti and Sunderland as a whole is wary of outsiders and anything new.

I imagine for a lot of people they see a man in charge of our transfer dealings, know nothing about him and base their opinion on him on the fact that he looks a little bit like Boris Johnson and Keith Lemon's love child. He may well be hopeless, out of his depth and a disaster in the long run but it is crazy to be at that conclusion already. It is based on very, very little.

We must also not forget that they inherited a mess. Once the loans and out of contract players had left at the end of last season there was nothing but a carcass of a squad left for them to try and transform. For example, we had one fullback in the entire first team squad (Bardsley) and he was never going to play again under Di Canio.

The squad had three senior central defenders, all of whom are old and, in the case of Wes Brown, been in traction for about two years.

In midfield they had countless plodders on big money and several entering the last year of their contracts leaving them with little value in the transfer market.

On the wings we had Adam Johnson, and Elmohamady was still on the books.

The striking options included Danny Graham, Ji and Connor Wickham. Even the fans with the highest levels of blind faith must admit that De Fanti and Angeloni started from an extremely low point.

Given that low starting point, and add to that the new financial fair play rules, it shows that they had an unenviable job on their hands. The financial fair play rules are not to be sniffed at - they can result in a points deduction if breached. These rules and our wages to turnover ratio really did limit the amount of manoeuvrability that we had in the transfer market. Sunderland get large numbers through the turnstiles but we have very low (by Premier League standards) ticket prices.

Our sponsorship deals are generally not as lucrative as the bigger boys' deals and there is no money from European football. The result of which is a relatively low turnover and Short has been taking the hit of a net loss of £25m per year in the accounts. Despite all of that our wage bill was still 8th largest in the entire league.

I often took issue with people criticising Short for not splashing out on transfer fees and accusing him of asset stripping. It is nonsense and do not let anybody trick you into believing otherwise. The club had very little room on the wage bill and there was no option but to sign lots of players as the squad had gaping holes everywhere.

We needed at least two fullbacks, two central defenders, a winger, two midfielders and a striker. Cashing in on Mignolet gave us a lot more wiggle room and we simply cannot keep hold of players as valuable as him if he has no intention to sign a new deal. Selling him for top dollar, making him the fifth most expensive goalkeeper ever, was the only sensible thing to do.

The sale of Sessegnon would have been perfectly justifiable if it had been earlier in the window, but given the timing and lack of opportunity to use the freed up wages was questionable to say the least. That is one of two mistakes that I feel the new regime made in the summer. The other was the balance of first team, squad and young players that were signed. I would have liked an extra one or two first teamers and a couple less squad players and youngsters.

I am happy to forgive them that during a baptism of fire - as long as they learn from it. At this stage I feel it is a pointless exercise to go over the individual merits of each and every signing but apart from the four youngsters and Cabral, they have all made a contribution towards some positive results this season.

So has De Fanti deserved the reputation and levels of mistrust seen leveled at him before the upcoming transfer window? Not at all.

He has been made the scapegoat for something that is far more deep and complicated than to just lay the blame at the new man's door. That is not to say that it is all plain sailing and January will be great. The job he has on his hands, along with Angeloni, is even more important now than it was in the summer.

There has to be an injection of quality, we need players that are guaranteed to improve the first team and to do it from the word go, and less emphasis on squad fillers and youngsters. So I urge all Sunderland fans to hang onto your hats, have a bit of faith and let's see where we are when the window closes.

PHIL RANDLE

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