Last summer, we saw a constant stream of lesser-known-Italian followed by unknown-Argentinian followed by Serie-A-journeyman linked with our club. While there was something nice about being linked with fancy names from glamour clubs like Napoli and San Lorenzo, its quite refreshing this year to be linked to the kind of player that we know and are familiar with.
There's no flair or glamour associated with the signing of Billy Jones (other than his majestic hair). He's a pretty no-nonsense full back who has often punched above his perceived weight - having followed his career since he was a 16-year-old making waves at Crewe. We know what we will get with him, and he has obviously done enough to get Gus interested in his services.
The same can be said of Jordi Gomez. We know what he can bring to a side, and if a manager of Roberto Martinez's quality has signed him twice - a manager with a similar ethos to Poyet - then we can be assured that he is the kind of player we'd want, and fits into what Poyet is trying to do with the club.
We're getting the usual "someone from the North East is looking at him so we'll guess its both of them" links, but we're also getting ones that make sense - Jordan Mutch would be a good fit, as would Ashley Williams (that'd be a fantastic coup for the club) and of course the noises being made of a certain knife-celebrating Sweeney-rhyming Italian.
What is really pleasing this year is that Poyet has identified the holes in the team, and is looking to fill them. Needed a right back - signed. Needed some midfield nous - signed. Need goalkeeper backup - in the hunt. Deals lined up for players where we're lacking. It makes a novel change from the "he's available, we'll find a space for him" approach we seem to have gone for in the last few years.
Whether we actually get any of these players we're linked with, and manage to get our targets, remains to be seen. Its just nice to be linked with players that actually fit with what the manager wants. In fact, its nice for a manager of Sunderland to know what he wants, and what he's trying to achieve. Long may it continue.
(I also write about ice hockey, at the Frozen Steel Blog)