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The (Totally Rumourless) Sunderland Transfer Window Guide: The Key Questions Answered

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January is here, and that means we are about to embark upon a month of the annual winter transfer hell. Here is a handy, Sunderland specific guide to help you through it.

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When exactly is the transfer window?

Officially, the transfer window for English clubs opens on January 3rd and closes at 11pm on Monday February 2nd. Of course, clubs can still complete deals before it opens, but those players can't be registered and eligible to play until the ‘official' window.

Let's cut to the chase - Poyet must be backed, yes?!

Well, in a perfect world, yes, and it depends really upon what your definition of ‘backed' is. If you're expecting Ellis Short to throw caution to the wind and just throw money, presumably in one of those war chest thingies, at Gus Poyet's feet and tell him to go nuts, then you may want to think again.

You may have seen Manuel Pellegrini's comments on the transfer window recently, which were:

I don't think we are going to be too busy in this window.

We have restrictions about the amount of money and about the number of players we can put in the Champions League, so I don't think it will be a special transfer window for our team.

We have the option to do it - we will see in the whole month of January what we are going to do about that - but it is not a major concern.

The middle paragraph is the relevant one. Clubs are now restricted in how much money they spend in wages. You have a little more freedom in terms of transfer fees, but if you can't deliver those signings within your capped wage budget, you're going to be in trouble.

That's nothing to do with UEFA either, by the way. The counter argument to talk of Financial Fair Play tends to go along the lines of ‘it doesn't apply to us because we are not in European competition or even close to it', but that is literally irrelevant. We are talking about the Premier League financial Fair play rules here. They are separate, and breaches of them are punishable by point deductions.

In fact, Poyet himself has reference this himself when discussing the possibility of moving for Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk:

We were in talks with [Celtic] from the past, but there's a certain amount of money you can have, so I think it's a bit too early.

Certain amount of money you can have not spend, and ‘too early' referring to the summer when the cycle starts over and the upper wage limit is increased.

So we are basically screwed then, aye?

Not necessarily. It just means the club have to be a little more responsible, patient and creative with how they do their business.

For starters, we don't know just how close they currently are to the wage ceiling that they are allowed under financial fair play rules, but it's pretty tight as I understand it. The key will be making room by offloading a little deadwood.

There are no prizes on offer for guessing who Lee Congerton and Poyet want to get rid of. Danny Graham, Cabral and Jozy Altidore moving on may end up being the key.

It's just going to be more bloody loans again, isn't it?

Probably, aye. Loans are more attractive than ever. The financial commitment is short term and the cost can be offset by loaning your own players out. It's not ideal, but it creates something of a holding pattern to keep you safe while searching for longer-term fixes.

Look around the Premier League and you'll see it's not just Sunderland who use the system. Stoke City have Victor Moses and Oussama Assaidi. WBA have Andre Wisdom and Silvestre Varela. Hull have Gaston Ramirez and have had Hatem Ben Arfa. QPR have Mauricio Isla, Eduardo Vargas and Niko Krancjar. Southampton have Ryan Bertrand, Toby Alderweirald and have just added Eljero Elias. Swansea have Tom Carroll. West Ham have Carl Jenkinson and Alex Song. Everton have Christian Atsu. That's all to name just a few.

Can we have any more loans, though?

Yes. Under Premier League rules Sunderland can have one more Premier League loan, as long as it's not from Liverpool (sorry Fabio) and foreign loans are pretty much unlimited.

What kind of targets can we expect?

Your guess is as good as mine. Poyet insists that he is looking only for ‘special' quality over quantity, and I'm sure he means it. Whether or not it is delivered, who knows!

The focus is, you'd hope, likely to be on attacking players. For all there has been a defensive crisis of late, Poyet has the numbers he wants there. He has three full backs (Patrick van Aanholt, Billy Jones, and Anthony Reveillere) and four centre backs (John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Sebastian Coates and Santiago Vergini). That's pretty much what he said he wanted last summer, and only one of the seven, Brown, wasn't either signed by Poyet or given a new contract by him.

Hopefully, then, the forward line is where we'll see a little strengthening.

Poyet doesn't sign the players though, does he!

It's really time this one was put to bed. That it's still seemingly a question for some is astonishing really. Poyet himself has explained the recruitment at the club, and he's a huge influence on it.

I've got a yes or no on a player. Every player who comes here, I agree.

There is no-one among the ones we signed in the summer that I said ‘no' and the club said ‘yes'. That doesn't mean I choose every single player. Let's not be naive.

There is a working system, a recruiting system where we look at players and look at options and, from those options, we're going to pick one or the other. [Fabio] Borini and Marcos Alonso were easy for me. They were my picks.

They are not here, but Buckley was my pick and he is here. That was no recruitment system, it was me.

But that's how it works in any other place.

There we have it. The club haven't signed a single player since Poyet has been at the club that he didn't approve of or want, though there have certainly been one or two that Lee Congerton, or even Roberto de Fanti, didn't want *COUGH Nacho Scocco COUGH Will Buckley COUGH*