After being told by every man and his dog for weeks on end that Sunderland simply must bring in a striker, the Black Cats now face several weeks without top-scorer Lewis Grabban whilst Simon Grayson continues to squirm over the prospect of moving for a free agent front man.
Whilst the Sunderland boss did not rule out adding a goalscorer to the ranks in this morning’s press conference, his wriggling over the issue appears to confirm the Black Cats will have to make do with James Vaughan for the next few weeks.
Grayson continues to insist he expects the rest of the Sunderland side to weigh in with goals, despite midfielder George Honeyman being the only fit squad member to have found the back of the net more than once this season.
All hopes appear to rest with Duncan Watmore then as the former England U21 forward makes his return to competitive football this weekend with an outing for the Under-23s.
But it’s Grayson’s claim that all of the best out-of-contract strikers on the market will now have been snapped up which merits a further look. When asked if there were any free agents Sunderland would consider, the boss said:
If there is, everyone else will be taking a look at them as well. Most of the players will have been taken on already, but that’s not to say we’re not looking around.
Sunderland have known for weeks, months - years even - that a striker was desperately needed but the previous Premier League policy of relying solely on Jermain Defoe has now been extended into the Championship campaign. The assumption that the relative unknown quantity, loanee Grabban, could fire plentifully and stay fit is now consigned to the bin.
The Black Cats’ failure to land Villa target man Ross McCormack after a lengthy summer pursuit sums up the short-sighted nature of the club currently. There was no plan ‘B’ in that case when either Steve Bruce or Sunderland pulled the plug on the deal and this injury to Grabban appears to be accompanied by no plan ‘C’.
The other strikers Sunderland were linked with in the summer, like Daryl Murphy and Martyn Waghorn, are already freely scoring goals for the clubs in the Championship they eventually landed at.
The former rubbed Black Cats’ noses in it with the winner on Tuesday night and Murphy already has four goals for Forest, while Waghorn was rumoured to be headed for Wearside before he landed at Ipswich and has notched the same tally for the Tractor Boys.
But for Simon Grayson to assert that all the best free agents have now likely been snapped up is a frankly stupid claim as he takes his mis-firing Sunderland side to Hull City tomorrow. Everyone in the entire world saw this one coming.
For now the Black Cats will have to rely on summer signing James Vaughan leading the line and the added weight on the shoulders of the 29-year-old may yet spark his season into life. The former Bury man has played nearly 500 minutes in a Sunderland shirt so far this term without finding the net and has averaged a solitary shot per game.
Saturday’s opponents Hull City have the worst goals-against column in the league with only bottom-of-the-table Bolton and 21st placed Burton conceding as many this term. But what price the Tigers keeping a clean sheet against Sunderland tomorrow?