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Sterile Black Cats: Sunderland simply must now roll the dice and source a free agent striker

Simon Grayson may have insisted he wasn’t concerned that Sunderland failed to land a striker on deadline day, but on the evidence of his team’s last three performances, who’s he trying to kid?

Sunderland v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Sunderland have only managed six goals in the opening six games of the Championship season - with half of those coming against Norwich last month.

The Black Cats have only scored once in their last three league games, with the only shot on target yesterday coming in the 94th minute from Jack Rodwell’s consolation effort against Sheffield United. Even more alarmingly, the manager insisted last week that not landing a striker before the transfer window shut was of little concern.

Sunderland simply must roll the dice and source a free agent striker this week or face more weekends filled with disappointment and increasing angst in the stands.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Predicting a plummet into League One may have seemed alarmist as Simon Grayson was rebuilding his squad during the summer, but on the evidence of Sunderland’s latest abject performance, even the most ardent optimists can be forgiven for admitting the thought has at least crossed their minds.

Because the Black Cats look hopelessly sterile in front of goal. Lewis Grabban’s bright start to the season now feels like an age ago and his strike partner James Vaughan increasingly looks like proving once again that the Championship is a level too high for him.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
It doesn’t feel like we’ll be seeing too much of Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan celebrating goals this season
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The club have heeded few warnings this summer and steadfastly stuck to the path of not spending a penny.

Bringing in ten players for a little over a million pounds is frankly staggering - and whilst the names who have arrived should be decent-ish on paper - not handing Simon Grayson a modest amount to bring in a striker with pedigree at Championship level hints at something deeper than mere austerity.

When the Sunderland boss talked of his budget being a mid-ranking one for the division, few can have imagined the club would not invest in a target man.

Grabban and Vaughan were dire against the Blades on Saturday, with the Sheffield United defence nullifying their very presence with ease. And whilst Grayson suggested last week that not signing a forward did not concern him, resting hopes that teenager Josh Maja and returning attacker Duncan Watmore will offer the additional firepower that Sunderland are lacking, are flimsy at best.

Maja would benefit from a loan spell further down the divisions to enhance his progress whilst Watmore is unlikely to be up to full strength until Christmas time - assuming his return to fitness will remain on course.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Josh Maja had a good pre season but he’s a way off making the step up into playing regularly in the Championship
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

There were baseless rumours last week that former Liverpool man Rickie Lambert had been seen at the Academy of Light but Grayson’s dismissal of the need for a striker binned off further speculation.

The Sunderland boss did indicate he has received calls from the representatives of free agents and that he remains open to considering signing someone but he qualified the statement by saying any move would be dependent on budget. And therein lies the issue - budget, what budget?

But to not sign a striker at this already crucial stage of the season - with Sunderland hovering above the Championship relegation places following a further round of morale-crushing defeats - would be madness. But then, madness infests the corridors and board room of the Stadium of Light.