For football fans everywhere this summer, the mind turns to the transfer window. Following Sam Allardyce’s virtually unblemished January (no, I’ve never heard of Dame N’Doye either), expectations for this pre-season are understandably high, whilst questions abound.
Will he opt for the Premier League experience of West Ham’s Diafra Sakho? Will he once again return to the French market which proved so fruitful last winter? Will he plough every penny of Sunderland’s transfer budget into expensive genetic experiments designed to produce a team consisting of eleven perfect replicas of Lamine Koné (known, if there is any justice in the world, as the Lamine Klonés)?
However Sam decides to spend Ellis Short’s money this summer, I hope he’s looking for one thing above all. Perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Sunderland cannot sign perfect players (though Allardyce will hope his signings continue to prove less imperfect than those of his predecessors). Yet one hopes that whilst the players he signs will be inevitably imperfect, that at least one of them is capable of producing those things which Sunderland teams have sorely lacked in recent seasons, moments of perfection.
You know the ones I mean. The insouciant flick through the crowd of defenders. The gleeful drop of the carefree shoulder. The twist and spin which sees you turn in your plastic seat to look into the face of your neighbour, a face bearing an expression which says, "No, I’ve no idea how he did that either". They’re the moments which made you love the game, before anybody complicated it with formations or tactics or layers of social and political and historical import. They are moments of joy.
Above all else, Allardyce is a pragmatist. It is why he has succeeded at so many clubs over such a long period. It is why he was so highly sought, and why I count us extremely lucky to have him. He will take the resources available to him, and with them he will build a winning team. At times, he will favour function over form, for he understands that only the managers of functioning teams keep their jobs.
Yet, one hopes, he finds room within his side for someone capable of producing those moments of perfection. Wahbi Khazri’s signing in January perhaps represented a step in that direction, yet it remains too early to judge the Tunisian’s fitness for the role. Whether it falls to Khazri, or whether the responsibility is taken by one of Allardyce’s summer recruits, Sunderland fans need a player to give us those moments. Deliver that, and Allardyce’s reign can really begin.