Sunderland’s opening night performance against Derby County has been widely hailed as a promising start to life in the Championship but one which also highlighted those areas in which Simon Grayson must still strengthen.
A target-man who can hold the ball up will add options to the Black Cats ranks whilst reinforcements at left-back, centre-half and on the wing will also see a thus-far cheap rebuild spring to life. A ball-playing midfielder would also be nice depending on the room Grayson still has to manoeuvre in his budget.
And whilst the injured Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair and Bryan Oviedo will offer the Sunderland boss some of those facets, the apparent lack of options on the bench last night to capitalise on a general decent display remain a concern ahead of a further set of tricky fixtures as the opening weeks play out.
With the president of Besiktas hinting that Jeremain Lens circa £4m move to the Turkish champions will be completed on Monday, that might hand Grayson some cash to invest.
There are reports in Turkey which suggest Besiktas have agreed a two-year payment plan to reimburse Sunderland for the Dutch winger, but presumably the Black Cats boss will be handed some cash to reinforce his side. But who will he spend it on?
The Lancashire Evening Post have today claimed Preston have knocked back bids - in the plural sense - for supposed Sunderland target Jordan Hugill.
As the Middlesbrough-born striker began the Lilywhites opening victory over Sheffield Wednesday on the bench, the Deepdale club were said to have rejected offers for the targetman.
One of them is thought to have come from Birmingham City who were sent away last month after probing Preston with £2.5m for Hugill. The other suitor or suitors remain a mystery.
Hugill was a 67th minute introduction this afternoon and quickly made an impact, winning a penalty after being brought down by Wednesday’s Tom Lees in the box.
Elsewhere, with Lamine Kone finally putting in a performance in front of the Sky TV cameras last night at the Stadium of Light, the Ivorian has likely done himself little harm should there be interested parties about to move in.
And Sunderland will certainly need a replacement for Kone to partner Tyias Browning at the heart of defence.
Papy Djilobodji has barely featured since Grayson became Black Cats boss, continuing his general absence from view dating way back to earlier this year. The Senegalese defender looks like he will remain at Sunderland with no reported interest in him whilst John O’Shea at the age of 36 cannot be relied upon to feature twice a week once the fixtures start coming thick and fast.
Bristol City’s Aden Flint is still occasionally linked with Sunderland and the 6ft 5in centre-half was another to begin today’s Championship season on the bench. An 82nd minute introduction as the Robins romped past Barnsley, his manager Lee Johnson suggested his initial omission was because the 28-year-old has ‘had his head turned’.
No surprise perhaps considering ol’ blabber chops, Birmingham boss Harry Redknapp, recently confirmed his interest in Flint.
Bristol City chairman Steve Lansdown recently suggested his star man can leave for £10m so Sunderland are likely to have been priced out of any interest in Flint - had they any to start with.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa central defender Tommy Elphick is thought to be inching nearer an exit from the West Midlands. Nothing new has been reported in public since Sunderland were said to be heading the queue midway through last week but some further movement is likely in the next few days.
Finally, Sunderland and Villa must still be thrashing out who pays what in a loan deal for striker Ross McCormack. The Scotland striker has been nowhere near Steve Bruce’s squad which opened its campaign against Hull City this evening.
With Sky Sports last night suggesting the Black Cats are only paying a third of the wages for loanee Lewis Grabban, splitting the bill over McCormack’s reported £50,000 a week pay may take a little time for negotiators from cash-strapped Sunderland.