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Captain's Blog: Summer Will Frustrate Fans, But Season Unlikely To Disappoint

A slow and tedious summer should put Sunderland in good stead for a very promising season.
A slow and tedious summer should put Sunderland in good stead for a very promising season.

With the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine coming to an end, the transfer window officially opening, and players due to return for pre-season training shortly, a sudden 'summer starts here' feeling has seemed to sweep through football. That means just one thing - we are about to get more transfer speculation shoved down our throats than we know what to actually do with.

Some people love it. Some twitter accounts exist for nothing but it. What makes the summer window so fervent is the fact that it is a chance for clubs to hit the reset button, and we all have our own ideas and opinions about what our clubs should be doing in the market.

For us, recent summers have tended to be fast-moving as transfer-junkie Steve Bruce set about getting his annual fix of deals done with the general demeanour of a spoilt fat child gorging himself in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory having been lucky enough to find a golden ticket. This summer, however, things seem considerably tougher to predict.

The principle reason for that, of course, is that no one really knows what to expect from Martin O'Neill. The Sunderland manager is, after all, renowned for playing his hand incredibly close to his chest in the transfer market and has no track record on Wearside upon which Black Cats fans can draw.

There does appear, however, to be a couple of things we can expect from Sunderland's transfer business this summer. Things to which chairman Ellis Short alluded last week at the launch of the club's new sponsorship deal with Invest In Africa.

"Martin is looking at specific players that we might want, and then there'll be a lot of work in trying to get those players here. We don't want to sign players for the sake of it, or if it feels they're inexpensive. We want to identify players who are good and will definitely improve us."

Firstly, if the list of potential targets is not a long one, deals will likely to be drawn out affairs following sustained periods of jostling for position with selling clubs, other interested parties, and agents. Chances are that will make it a summer of frustration for us fans, but show me a player who a club fights tooth and nail to keep and I'll show you a player worth signing.

But perhaps more importantly, all the indications are that the club intend to sacrifice quantity for quality this year, and that almost certainly requires the fans to compromise on their expectations accordingly. After all, depending on who you talk to amongst the fans, the club are 'desperate' to fill just about every position in the team other than centre back, goalkeeper, and left wing, and each of them have a reasonable argument behind them.

This summer will be a case of prioritising on Wearside, as Martin O'Neill assesses what deficiencies in the squad require immediate attention and which ones can be patched up or carried next season. That would mean adding both quality and depth up front and some penetration in wider areas, which is surely likely to put too great a strain on O'Neill's transfer budget to seriously address many, if any, secondary concerns.

The defence, whilst far from perfect, was certainly not Sunderland's shortcoming last season. The away trips to West Bromwich Albion and Everton aside, it stood up relatively competitively to every challenge. The Bosman signing of Carlos Cueller would, therefore, appear to be an astute piece of opportunism on O'Neill's part as opposed to anything else.

The centre of midfield is quite disappointedly bland, with no real stand-out creative force or physical presence, but it is well stocked. In fact, with Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback, David Vaughan, Craig Gardner, David Meyler and potentially even Seb Larsson too, it looks a little over-stocked if anything.

Departures - such as if Kieran Richardon is moved on as has been widely speculated, for example - may dictate the need for some squad tinkering, but there appears little indication of a repeat of the kind of widespread changes that had become an annual summer extravaganza at Sunderland under Steve Bruce.

Instead, injecting carefully considered quality additions into only the very weakest areas of the squad would seem to be the intention from this point forward.

For us, the fans, this will make for a slow, frustrating, and often tedious summer, you have to suspect. We should probably all prepare ourselves for that right now. But I am certain it will make for a far more satisfying season that follows and leave the club in a much stronger position overall.

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