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Molly Burke: First impressions of Sunderland’s latest signings - are they any good?

In Molly Burke's latest column for we go over all of Sunderland's summer signings - first impressions, what can they achieve down the line and, to be blunt, are they even any good?

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

James Vaughan (Bury)

When James Vaughan arrived from League One side Bury I didn’t think too much of his signing as I assumed he would be a back-up striker to a more able, quality replacement for the outgoing Jermain Defoe. However, despite a trio of deadline day signings, we failed to bring in another forward who could battle Vaughan for his spot.

The 29-year-old started brightly in the first few games of the season, combining well with Lewis Grabban and proving himself as a very determined player. Despite struggling to find the back of the net, his ability on the pitch gave the fans a reason to cheer on the former Everton man in the hope that his drought would soon end.

However, our significant dip in form has seen him struggle further and he’s still yet to score a goal in a Sunderland shirt. It isn’t his fault that he’s not a towering forward, of course, but his lack of presence is concerning and he often seems more interested in going to ground than he is moving into dangerous positions around the opposition box.

While I may have a soft spot for Vaughan and I understand that it may be a big leap up for him from League One, I would prefer his energy and grit to be used from the bench as he lacks the quality we need to make our way back up to the Premier League.

Jason Steele (Blackburn Rovers)

When Jordan Pickford left we were in desperate need to replace him with a decent goalkeeper. And with a chairman like Ellis Short we knew we wouldn’t be seeing much, if any, of that £30 million invested into his replacement, but I wasn’t quite expecting to be underwhelmed as much as I was when we signed Jason Steele from Blackburn.

When I saw tweets from Blackburn fans that were delighted at his departure, my eyebrow was raised - but, like with all new signings, we have to give them all an equal chance to impress.

Unfortunately, Steele hasn’t been able to prove his doubters thus far, though the season is still young. After a horror show against Celtic in pre-season, Steele initially kept his place but it only took four league games for him to be dropped to the bench, and his demotion would have probably arrived earlier had Robbin Ruiter already been at the club.

Aiden McGeady (Everton)

It took many years of trying but finally, this summer, we signed long-term target Aiden McGeady - and thus far, the signs of his ability have been impressive, despite the former Celtic man missing our last two games through an injury he sustained whilst on international duty.

It is great to finally see a winger pulling off tricks that makes the crowd cheer before taking his man on – the type of flair play we haven’t been blessed with since perhaps Stephané Sessegnon was here.

He is already scoring goals and providing assists and may well be the type of player that is the difference between us struggling and staying afloat. Not only has he had a very positive start to the season, but he already has his own superb song to match - another reason why he is my signing of the summer.

Brendan Galloway (Everton – loan)

When Brendan Galloway arrived as a duo with Tyias Browning, he was dubbed to be the more promising of the two, despite his unsuccessful spell last season with West Brom. Some Everton fans were surprised that they had let him go out on loan, and claimed he would do very well in the Championship.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

I don’t know what has went wrong for the left-back but he is yet to have a good game for us. At Sunderland, we are often used to full backs that aren’t amazing at defending but make up for it getting forward, however Galloway fails to impress in both aspects.

On too many occasions he finds his man easing past him, often resulting in a goal or a good opportunity for the opposition. In truth, he is a liability and with Bryan Oviedo back from injury I can see him struggling to get in the side unless he sorts himself out.

Tyias Browning (Everton – loan)

Tyias Browning previously played on loan at Preston with Simon Grayson, so the gaffer knew plenty about the defender before bringing him to the club at the start of the summer.

While initially he was thought to be a full back, Grayson has thus far preferred the Everton loanee to John O’Shea in the middle of the back four. Browning has enjoyed a steady start to life on Wearside, having a couple of impressive performances throughout - though it would be unfair to ignore his howler which led to Nottingham Forest scoring their winner this past Tuesday night. Clearly he has much to learn, but the early signs are at least promising.

Lewis Grabban (Bournemouth – loan)

I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of this signing having seen numerous Reading fans express how lazy and uninterested he was during his loan spell there earlier this year.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

However, it took Grabban only 42 minutes for the striker to grab a goal on his debut. The 29-year-old looked lively and was gifted with a brace the following weekend against his former club Norwich - but, since then, he’s struggled to impart himself on games and having succumbed to injury on Tuesday, we may be without him for a number of weeks if his hamstring injury is as bad as feared.

Lewis has big boots to fill since he’s effectively Jermain Defoe’s most able replacement, but I am hopeful that he will be able to consistently add to his goal tally despite his recent drought in front of goal.

Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace – loan)

A 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United at the weekend saw hordes of people leave the Stadium of Light early, with chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ heard from around the stands. However, Jonathan Williams’ performance was one of the few positives taken from that utter disaster - and he impressed further this past Tuesday too.

The Welsh international was full of energy and skill, easing past the opposition whilst embarking on numerous impressive runs forward. He appeared to be our only promising attacking threat but was sadly not helped by the rest of the team.

He may have only just made his start to life on Wearside but I think we can expect great things from Williams - provided, of course, he can stay fit.

Callum McManaman (West Brom)

It was hard to judge McManaman on the thirty minutes he played on Saturday, but like Williams he looked to skip past players rather than the sideways and backwards passes we are so used to from our midfielders and wide players.

Sunderland Unveil Callum McManaman Photo by Scott Heppell/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

He was given the opportunity to kick off from where he left off against Forest on Tuesday, replacing James Vaughan in Sunderland’s starting eleven. Despite the loss, McManaman didn't disappoint and looked a lively figure on the right hand side - the fitter he becomes, the more he’ll improve and add to our side. A shrewd signing.

Marc Wilson (Bournemouth)

Wilson's first two games for Sunderland have seen our defence concede three relatively simple goals, but the Irishman hasn’t been afraid to get stuck in thus far and over the course of the season you’d hope that his Premier League quality can shine through.

With Lamine Kone’s future at the club beyond January uncertain it was important we bring in a quality defender and though Wilson won’t necessarily rock the boat, it’s reasonable to expect he’s capable of playing at a high standard at this level once his fitness is up.

Robbin Ruiter (FC Utrecht)

Robbin Ruiter looked superb in pre-season and impressed Simon Grayson so much that he was offered a contract on a permanent basis. Initially fans begged Grayson to drop Steele for the Dutchman - though, now he’s in the side, the former FC Utrecht man hasn’t been quite as good as his initial performances showed, with some awkward displays against Barnsley and Sheffield United proving that he’s maybe going to take some time to bed in properly.

I hope that he can still live up to expectations, but if he continues to disappoint he may find himself back on the bench - and as the alternatives are Mika and Steele, nobody truly wants to see that happen, do they?

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