Since before our dismal slide to relegation under former manager David Moyes, the talk of a rebuild and a cleansing of the club’s playing staff has been heavily discussed by fans preparing themselves to witness second tier football for the first time in a decade.
With or without a manager in place, Sunderland need new players.
One very obvious issue is the fact that our midfield is weak, and must be improved ahead of the coming campaign - there’s no doubt about it. With Lee Cattermole consigned to the injury list for much of last season, Sunderland have had to rely on Dider Ndong, Jack Rodwell, Sebastian Larsson and Darron Gibson in the centre of the park. Ndong has had a fairly solid season while all of the others have been poor to say the least.
Subsequently, it seems fairly straightforward that midfield is an area in which Sunderland must look to improve. And one player who might fit the bill is Scottish international, John McGinn.
The 22-year-old won the Scottish Championship Player of the Season quite comfortably last season as Hibs’ won the league. McGinn has received many plaudits for his international displays, winning man of the match on his debut against a strong Danish side that included the likes of Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. He’s recently been linked to Celtic, and Brendan Rodgers labelled him as "the type of player you love as a manager" citing him as the "driving force" in the middle for Hibs, whilst lauding his passing ability and ability to get into the box.
A very skillful central midfielder, he has great passing ability without losing any tenacity in the tackle - attributes Sunderland have lacked for quite some time.
As a player, he is very much in the mold of a modern day footballer; he takes a great deal of responsibility on the pitch, and has been a focal point of Hibernian’s midfield since his move to Easter Road. When he doesn’t play Hibernian struggle such is his quality. He’s a player that is always available to pick up the ball giving his team mates an option; he’s energetic and vibrant - constantly on the move. Chipping in with five goals last season, he’s got a knack of scoring the occasional screamer too.
Although many will attest that he is playing at a much lower level and is unproven, McGinn has gone from strength to strength at the Edinburgh club. Crowds of over 15,000 regularly visit Leith’s Easter Road, and McGinn has risen to the task of helping guide Neil Lennon’s side to the top of the Scottish Championship where they secured the title on their way back to the Scottish Premier League. He’s a winner, and knows how to lead by example.
In terms of how much McGinn would cost - although a small percentage would be owed to former club St. Mirren - he’s apparently available for an incredibly modest fee of £1.5m. Pennies in this day and age, and a risk worth taking for a club as evidently skint as ourselves. His wages I imagine would be minimal in comparison to the players we see on their way out of the club, and do we really want to see an ageing, slow Sebastian Larsson with nothing to prove over a hungry, improving youngster with his better years ahead of him?
In an interview this April, on a move away from Neil Lennon’s side, he said:
I do have ambitions at some point down the line to go and challenge myself at a higher level.
If I did happen to go anywhere, either now or a few years down the line, it would have to be somewhere I could go and improve.
With full respect to his current team, moving to Wearside would certainly be a place he could improve and take the next step. He would give us exactly what we need right now: hunger, skill and a determination to challenge for success.
Yes, it’s not a big name, but not many of them are going to be. That’s just where we find ourselves at right now. Many of us hark back to the glory days of Kevin Phillips, Allan Johnston and Thomas Sorensen - all of whom were unknown quantities with sparks of talent when they walked through the doors at the Stadium of Light.
But finding young, hungry players that see Sunderland a chance to better themselves, players that see us as an opportunity, a massive club and a fanbase worth fighting for is what this club needs right now, and the likes of John McGinn fit that mould perfectly.