The silence on Wearside as supporters patiently await the announcement of much-needed additions to Chris Coleman’s paper-thin Sunderland squad is, in all honesty, deafening.
Seventeen days into January and we’re just one man stronger, with Chelsea defender Jake Clarke-Salter, a loan, the only signing that the Championship’s basement side have been able to make.
Newspaper talk has suggested a number of potential striking targets that Sunderland are apparently looking at, but nothing concrete appears to be forthcoming as the clock counts down and February approaches.
“We’ve got to do it, we need help in that department,” Coleman said in the aftermath of the defeat at Cardiff, Sunderland’s thirteenth of the season. “We cannot expect and put this pressure on two young boys. They’ve done well, they’ve made big impacts, won us a game, but being realistic we need some support.”
He added: “We’re trying, Martin (Bain) is working his socks off to make something happen. We need something, hopefully this week.”
The truth is that hope is all that Coleman has. Without significant amounts of money to play with it’s hard to dictate proceedings when it comes to transfers. Sunderland are quite literally banking on everything just falling into place.
The scale of the task that Bain, Coleman and Neale McDermott (Sunderland’s Head of Recruitment) have on their hands is truly unenviable. There are a multitude of obstacles preventing them from strengthening Sunderland’s squad, the most notable of which being a billionaire Missourian who took a conscious decision some time ago to stop investing his personal wealth in the club’s transfer dealings. Couple that with the desperate nature of the January transfer window - and the fact that clubs are just simply not prepared to part with their players unless the deal works in their favour - and its clear to see why new faces aren’t piling through the doors at the Stadium of Light.
The facts are laid out in front us. Aside from the obvious financial issues, we’re bottom of the Championship. Like it or not, good quality players that we’ve approached - like Ben Woodburn and Jon Walters, perhaps - are more than likely going to wait and see if better offers are forthcoming before the transfer window closes. They still have two weeks to properly deliberate over where their future lies in football, and nobody is going to be in a rush to come to Sunderland; that’s just the way it is.
Yet, amongst all of this, we must remember that we have a game of football to play this weekend at the Stadium of Light, a crumbling fortress with issues that not even a plucky 1-0 win over Fulham could possibly mask over.
If Sunderland haven’t got a striker signed by Friday afternoon’s deadline they’ll go into Saturday’s relegation six-pointer with Hull City with only teenage forward Josh Maja to call upon up front - quite a change in fortunes when you think back to just one year ago, when the man in young Maja’s place was England international Jermain Defoe.
What the thinking behind allowing James Vaughan to leave without an obvious replacement lined up remains a mystery. Coleman had suggested that the opportunity to allow a player to leave who had given up on his chances of making it here were too good to refuse, but were they so good that we had to sell him at the first time of asking, for a fee below what we paid for him in the summer, on the eve of an important game at Cardiff?
This could, of course, all be moot. There may very well be a new striker through the door by the time Saturday comes, but I have to admit that as I type this I don’t feel particularly confident, and that I’m mentally preparing for this game without any new additions.
Quite what Chris Coleman makes of it all, deep down, is beyond me. He presents himself as a cool, confident character in front of the cameras and perhaps that is what is needed. Provided we end January with the acquisitions we require to genuinely propel ourselves up the table, we’ll all be more than happy to wait it out a little longer. As the old saying goes, it’s the hope I can’t stand - genuinely.