Transfer deadline day in many ways was a condensed version of Sunderland’s 2016 summer window as a whole.
It started out with a lot of hope and optimism - not the false kind either. There was genuine optimism that it would be a positive experience all around. But then one thing goes wrong, then another, and another; until finally it ends in simple, yet massive, disappointment.
Only Sunderland can break their record transfer fee yet still somehow manage to disappoint their remarkably loyal and long-suffering fan-base.
At the start of the window, we had the post-season optimism from the end of last season; we had only lost one game in the final eleven matches, we had Sam Allardyce, we had the makings of a good team, we had Sam Allardyce, we had secured the financial rewards of avoiding relegation, we had Sam Allardyce and we had the hope that we could finally move up the table and establish ourselves as a good Premier League side. Did I forget to mention Sam Allardyce?
In mid-July we lost that man and to this day it’s still hurting me because there was a really good chance to get it right, a good chance to have a season in the Premier League where we weren’t fighting relegation but managed to be around mid-table. All the hope seemed to go with him to England. I have even less respect for the national side now.
Then comes in David Moyes, the man I wanted as manager as soon as Big Sam departed. I had to convince a couple of people that he would be the right man for the job as, irrespective of his time at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, he did brilliantly at Everton. He was at Goodison Park for over a decade and however long ago that was, it can’t be ignored; Moyes is the right person to take Sunderland forward I think.
But he’s not a miracle worker and has even gone as far as to say we are probably going to be in a relegation battle. To me, those comments were directly aimed at Ellis Short, saying: ‘if you don’t give me money to buy players, then this is what you’ll end up doing this season’. I like his honesty and he’s right; if he is to do anything with Sunderland, it’ll be a long-term process. I highly doubt we’ll do anything this season of note.
In fairness the manager leaving, a million injuries hitting our squad, a players’ agent deciding to screw us over as well as another one wanting to leave at the last minute isn’t Sunderland’s fault. In a lot of those situations I felt Moyes and the club handled all of that in the best way possible.
I can even understand the club not wanting to pay the reported £8.5m fee that Ruban Kazan were asking to sign Yann M’Vila now. Think about it – that could be another £8.5m saved for the January transfer window and, if reports are accurate, we will get M’Vila for free in four months. But I’ve seen two respectable sources of information say completely different things about whether M’Vila has signed a pre-contract agreement with Sunderland. So the club really needs to come out and clarify whether or not he has agreed to join us in the next transfer window.
Where I can’t defend the club though is the failure to get another striker or forward. This is where I think deadline day has proved to be a disappointment. I said all summer we need another striker, ideally a target-man, someone who is good, powerful, strong and physical. Leonardo Ulloa from Leicester was a name being mentioned yet that never materialized into anything worthwhile. I wasn’t as keen on him at first but I warmed to the idea of him.
Then we have Steven Naismith and John Ruddy from Norwich City. How on earth did we fail to get these two? Naismith wouldn’t have been the most exciting player in the world but he apparently is a workaholic and can score the odd goal now and again. As for Ruddy, well there were talks early on but, once again, that faded away.
See the pattern? Starts out promisingly yet always ends in failure. This isn’t me or other Sunderland fans overreacting by the way, it’s something that’s built up for the last four seasons and it’s getting to the point where I don’t feel I can take it anymore.
Why on earth do we struggle to get deals done?
I hate comparing us to Newcastle but for the sake of my argument I’m going to have to.
Newcastle got relegated at the back end of last season. They shouldn’t really have been able to keep Rafa Benitez yet they did. Whenever he wanted a player in, generally it was done. They’ve made a total of £68m from the sale of Geoginio Wijnaldum, Andros Townsend and Moussa Sissoko. Sissoko was sold late on deadline day but the money from the other sales was used to reinvest in the squad. They’ve got genuine hope for the future and they’re in the bloody Championship.
However, all of this doesn’t mean we won’t have a good season. Despite the desperate need for a striker and a goalkeeper, we can still look to the free agent market. I also believe our squad IS good enough to stay in the league but that’s of course subject to injuries. If we get any more injuries to key players then I’m massively worried for the season ahead.
I have another part to my ‘review’ of the transfer window but it’s more a comment on the general state of Sunderland which I’ve had on paper for a while but deliberately waited until the window was over to get out there. Simon’s article covers Ellis Short but it’s just my general thoughts. Stay tuned!