With a couple of useful loan signings and a pair of cut-price permanent additions to fill gaping holes in our squad, Simon Grayson has made a sensible-looking start to the mammoth rebuilding project on his hands.
Ty Browning and Brendan Galloway are young players with a chance to increase their own stock, and will provide good competition at full-back for Bryan Oviedo and Billy Jones. Galloway in particular has the potential to be a very shrewd signing, with his versatility allowing him to cover as a midfielder or a central defender in addition to his natural left-back role. He comes off the back of a disappointing loan spell at West Brom where he was barely seen, and will surely be determined to put his own development back on track on Wearside.
Aiden McGeady and James Vaughan look like very astute additions. They cost less than £1.5m between them, and will bring with them attributes that simply aren’t currently present in our squad. McGeady was hugely impressive in the Championship last season at Preston, while Vaughan seems to have put the fitness issues that have marred his career behind him. £900,000 for a striker who bagged 24 league goals for Bury in League One – a league with very similar physical demands to the Championship – has the potential to be an absolute steal.
There’s no doubting that Grayson still has a lot of work to do before August 4th, but the early signs are encouraging and signal a departure from the abhorrent recruitment strategies the club have ran with in recent seasons. Under the microscope this week is an attacking midfield player who may be surplus to requirements at Leicester City: Tom Lawrence.
In February - after a superb Tom Lawrence performance in which his two goals salvaged a draw at home to Reading – Mick McCarthy made the frank admission that without the Welshman, his Ipswich side would be “up poo creek.”
McCarthy has never been known for his subtlety, but the consistency and productivity of Lawrence while on loan at Portman Road last season was undoubtedly a huge factor in a weak Ipswich side avoiding the drop. In 34 league appearances – of which 32 were starts – Lawrence bagged nine goals and eleven assists, with his trickery and composure on the ball enabling him to unlock defences on a regular basis.
Lawrence has had a number of loan spells in recent seasons, and in January was reportedly told by Leicester that he had no future at the club. His performances in the second part of last season may have caused Craig Shakespeare to rethink that particular view, but it seems unlikely he will be at the forefront of his plans.
Judging by Simon Grayson’s activity thus far, Sunderland don’t have the warchest that the likes of Middlesbrough or Aston Villa seem to be able to call upon. A fee of at least £5m would be required to push through a permanent deal, but a loan – perhaps with the option of a permanent deal - wouldn’t be entirely out of the question for Simon Grayson.
Not many Sunderland fans expect both Jeremain Lens and Wahbi Khazri to be at the club come the end of the transfer window, so another attacking midfielder or winger could well be required. Lawrence would arrive following a season where he won Ipswich’s Player of the Year award, and would provide a creative, goalscoring outlet from midfield – something that has become extinct on Wearside in recent years.
Interest in Lawrence is expected to pick up as the transfer deadline approaches, with promotion-chasing Championship clubs and lower-table Premier League clubs likely to be in the running. For a player who has spent the vast majority of his career away on loan, Sunderland could well be the club that becomes home.