Chris Coleman moved quickly in his first appearance in front of the media to quell chatter that a manager of his stock taking the Sunderland job must mean he will be able to spend in the January transfer window to save this awful season.
The Black Cats new boss certainly arrived on Wearside with his reputation at a career high. With clubs in the Premier League and upper reaches of the Championship likely to begin pulling triggers on failing incumbents as the winter sacking season progresses, the former Wales manager could surely have landed himself a job with an easier initial remit than avoiding back-to-back relegations.
Whilst up for the challenge, Coleman indicated that the transfer strategy at the Stadium of Light has no chance of being significantly altered from the tight purse string policy which has been in place since relegation:
We have got what we’ve got. I haven’t been promised any huge transfer kitty where can just go and splash the cash. I knew that before I walked in the door.
But he did go on to hint that there has been some budget earmarked at least which neatly follows on from comments made by his predecessor. Simon Grayson had suggested he expected to receive a “reasonable” sum in January and Coleman echoed that, saying:
There could be some to invest but I’ve just walked through the door so I’ve got to get my feet under the table, have a good look before I can go back to the chairman and say we need this and that.
So if he’s “got what he’s got”, what realistic chance does Coleman have of bringing in a few new players after Christmas to refresh this struggling Sunderland side?
Dare we say it, but there is a suggestion out there that the 47-year-old was lured to the Stadium of Light on the understanding that he can bring in a trio of new faces so long as he shifts at least one high earner after Christmas.
As with all rumours, you can take it or leave it, and of course there are various factors which will conspire to affect the course of the Black Cats January window. Sunderland’s high earners will prove difficult to move on for one thing.
Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong were widely assumed to be ‘for sale’ in the summer but no one was particularly interested in taking a punt on them. The former will be missing from action through injury until the window opens so potential suitors are unable to take a look at him till later in January and the latter has largely proven that Championship football is about his level at this stage in his development.
Jack Rodwell is another taking home a big pay cheque of course, but he would have to take an enormous cut to move on from Sunderland and his inability or apparent unwillingness to take to the pitch in his natural midfield position means he can’t even prove himself to anyone - least of all himself.
Of the other saleable assets, perhaps Bryan Oviedo and, dare we say it, Aiden McGeady might attract interest from teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League; but there Sunderland’s prospect of moving people on largely ends.
Coleman will no doubt be linked with a plethora of players he worked with as national team boss in the coming weeks and the Sunderland Echo kicked things off by linking Liverpool’s Welsh pair Ben Woodburn and Danny Ward with loan moves to the Stadium of Light.
Certainly the new Black Cats boss needs reinforcements. Simon Grayson’s summer was initially hailed as a remarkable success considering the money he spent but only Jason Steele and Robbin Ruiter have managed to stay fit all season and the pair have proven to be poor additions.
The deadline day signings - Jonny Williams, Callum McManaman and Marc Wilson - all have ongoing fitness issues, not to mention a lack of consistency; whilst Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban have both suffered conspicuous lay-offs despite both rating as the only successful signings Grayson made on showings so far. James Vaughan will surely return to League One next season whether Sunderland drop or not.
Seemingly Sunderland’s January business will be based on the core assumption that the squad as it is has enough about it to climb into mid table with someone at the helm who can organise it. It’s a dangerous expectation of course, which could yet blow up with the club in League One next season. But a few million quid and a few more temporary deals seems to be the best we can wish for.
We’d predict a couple of loans and perhaps a midfielder or striker in January dependent on selling Kone and Ndong. And that’ll be about your lot Chris. But, quite frankly it’s better than nowt - which is roughly what Simon Grayson had to spend.