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Make Your Case: Is Signing So Many Foreign Players Too Much Of A Gamble?

In this week's edition of Make Your Case, Chris Weatherspoon and Stephen Goldsmith go head-to-head over the club's latest transfer policy, debating whether or not the impending foreign influx on Wearside is too risky a strategy for Paolo Di Canio's men.

Marco Luzzani

Chris Weatherspoon: Yes, Too Much Of A Gamble!

At first glance, Sunderland's rejig of their recruitment process is a refreshing change. For too long, the club has squandered outlandish sums of money on average footballers. At times, such as in 2007/08, this was necessary; Roy Keane needed to splurge in order to ensure the Black Cats did not suffer a third relegation in six seasons.

Since then, the money has continued to be spent but progress has firmly stalled. Indeed, last season's 17th position was the club's lowest Premier League finish since being relegated seven years previously.

With English players continually at a premium, and the club needing to change its habit of spending large sums with little return, the embracing of a transfer policy focused on bringing in players from abroad seems a wise one. Perhaps it is.

Yet to say it is not a huge gamble would be wrong.

For all there is greater value to found in foreign lands, so too is there far greater risk. Paolo Di Canio's squad will have an entirely different makeup come August to that which finished the season in defeat at White Hart Lane last month, but it will take a lot of work to ensure that this coming season and last season are worlds apart.

In targeting young, foreign players, Sunderland are hoping that Di Canio's managerial abilities are strong enough to bond a collective of relative unknowns together in very quick time. There will remain a spine of core players - the likes of John O'Shea, Adam Johnson, Steven Fletcher - yet for the most part this side will be one unlike Wearside has seen before.

It is said that players nurtured in foreign lands are possessing of higher technical ability and work-rate than their averageEnglish counterparts and, should this be true, it will stand Sunderland in a good starting position. But the focus of youth is a concern: any incoming player must ensure he is headstrong if he is to survive the pressure cooker of England's top league.

One need only look up at Newcastle United's latter half of last season for proof of the perils of signing foreign players and expecting them to bed into a side without trouble. Graham Carr and co. widely lauded for their policy of bringing in relatively cheap players from abroad, yet Alan Pardew's men only survived relegation by the skin of their teeth. Their shameful no-show in the Tyne-Wear derby should be proof enough of the risks inherent in such a strategy.

It is undoubted that Sunderland require a change in strategy. But this new plan is an enormous gamble, one contingent on many variables, and one that could prove disastrous if it fails. Perhaps the better alternative would be more incremental change, whereby current players are eased out of the door more slowly, and those coming the other way are a mix of homegrown and foreign.

Stephen Goldsmith: No, It's Not That Big A Gamble!

Well I won't lie, I've often been happy to openly slate sides who appear to have no sense of responsibility in having British players heavily involved in their sides. I also, however, hold what appear to be views slightly left-field when it comes to the influence that foreign players in our domestic game have on the national side. I think we'd be even further behind without them. But that's a different topic.

I'd love Sunderland to be full of local and home grown talent, without having to fork out millions on ex-Boro academy products in the process. I'd love us to have four or five players representing the Black Cats whenever England play too, but if there ever was a summer where heavy doses of reflection and self-realisation were to create a stinking reality that smacks us all clean in the face - then this has been it!

For Sunderland can ill afford to take some sort of moral stance and continue to over-spend on average British talent; we would surely do so at the cost of a plummet into the Championship. It's a simple fact that value for money is found abroad, no matter how sad that fact is. We are in no position to appease anyone but ourselves until the skies on Wearside are much clearer. If Roberto Di Fanti and Valentino Angeloni can find players abroad who offer that value for money and in turn offer Paolo Di Canio his required work ethic and professional attitudes than so be it.

It would be foolish to try and claim extensive knowledge of the four more senior players we have signed thus far, but as each offers European experience it's extremely hard to conjure up an argument against domestic alternatives who would come so cheaply or for free. When figures such as £10 million are casually thrown around for the likes of Jordan Rhodes, we can safely assess how bothersome the British market is for clubs wishing to get in line with being financially secure.

Some would argue that younger and hungrier British players can be found at a premium in the lower reaches of the Championship and below, and while Aston Villa made a decent case for that proposal, they were a Belgian centre forward away from probable relegation last term. If we become that settled mid-table side void of any serious demotion danger, then I'll be the first to start banging the patriotic drum. But we aren't.

Don't get me wrong, I remain convinced that we still need British (and Irish) players to help provide the core of the side and furthermore I'm pretty sure our new manager is of the same opinion. But I can certainly see no valid arguement that could divert away from the fact that the foreign market is the necessary tool for Sunderland to work with this summer - to help aid the best of British (and Irish) we already have here in O'Shea, Cattermole, Johnson and Fletcher.

Buy British? Been there, done that.


Have Sunderland taken too much of a gamble this summer in employing a transfer policy that focuses on bringing in players from abroad? Have your say in the comments box below and by voting in the poll.

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