I’m the worst kind of Sunderland supporter - a natural pessimist. Even when things are going well and the planets of the footballing galaxy are perfectly aligned, I’m always suspicious that the asteroids of disaster will fall from orbit and blow us to pieces.
But transfer windows can lift the hearts of even the most fatalistic fan and the right player at the right time can be just the injection of hope that can sustain the bleakest of fans through the darkest of times.
Successful transfer windows are also key indicators of a football club’s health and overall well-being. It can symbolise their wealth, their playing style and their business strategy. Rewarding transfer windows of high repute can confirm a club’s strength, their reputation and can reveal how much of a draw they remain when it comes to the critical point of attracting players.
Likewise, a failed transfer window is in many ways precisely that - a window. A window into the soul of clubs who are on the precipice of losing that very thing - their soul.
A disastrous transfer window is often an accurate barometer by which you can measure a clubs weakness, its lack of planning and its current position of fragility. It can reveal an owner’s intent, their goals for the club and their love for an institution of which they are responsible.
What can we learn about Sunderland from this current transfer window? Have you been inspired about how we’ve gone about our business? Do we, as stakeholders with both financial and longstanding emotional ties to this club, feel a sense of relief... of hope? Or do we feel an eerie sense of foreboding?
As I analyse this current window, it appears who we’ve kept is far more telling of our position than who we have brought in.
The biggest and in many ways the saddest tale of this window lies at the once talented feet of a deluded millionaire who must retain the employment of the best pharmaceutical scientists in the world.
For if Jack Rodwell’s recent and wretchedly pathetic Daily Mail interview is anything to go by, he’s completely and utterly deluded and has no actual idea of who or what he is.
I’m still a premier league player.
I do believe I’m an England international when I’m fit and on form.
The whole interview was cringeworthy. It was embarrassing. As a grown man he should look at that interview as a lower point in his career than any of his long term injuries.
‘It’s not about the money,’ he claimed. ‘I just want to play.’
Yet, after one minuscule nibble by Vitesse Arnhem, who due to ‘administrative issues’ cancelled Rodwell’s trial quicker than a bald man losing a cheap wig in a hurricane, Rodwell and his crippling wages remain. This self-victimising, self-pitying millionaire who doesn’t want to ‘lose his job’ but is seemingly happy in turn for working class people at the club to lose theirs, so he can be paid (although it’s not about the money right Jack?) is one of many cancers at this club that has been highlighted by a limp and dreadful window.
The fact that we were like a desperate crush willing to go to bed with him on the first date, by gleefully signing him up with huge wages but no relegation clauses also shows just how weak our bargaining position was even then. It hasn’t improved since.
On the 13th of January after a crushing defeat to Cardiff, Chris Coleman was probed about his need to bolster his strike force.
Asked whether he remained hopeful of signing strikers in the coming days, he said:
It’s not a case of ‘I’m hoping’, we’ve got to do it. We have got to do it. our chief executive Martin Bain is working his socks off to make something happen, as quickly as we can.
That was over two weeks before the transfer window ended. Coleman, in desperation, pleaded with the powers that be to bring in strikers that week! No choice about it, it had to be done.
Was it done?
With Martin Bain, our caped negotiating crusader at the helm, how could we ever doubt that Coleman’s pleas would not quite go according to his optimistic plan? As it happens, after being linked to a series of experienced strikers, who we no doubt sought to assist our two novice forwards, we have - at the very last second - signed another novice striker.
Ashley Fletcher has promise and my Barnsley mad colleague who follows the Tykes through thick and thin raves about him and his time at Oakwell. His scoring rate averages 1 goal in every 6 appearances and I’m guessing Coleman was after more than that. However - stats can be misleading - Fletcher is a big, mobile guy who brings others into the game and if he can get Asoro or Maja to score a few more goals, then happy days. But he is a gamble.
And that word - gamble - is my over-riding consensus of this month’s transfer window.
Some will be optimistic that we’ve signed young, hungry lads who will bleed for the shirt and work hard for the playing time denied them elsewhere.
But by signing a raft of inexperienced kids who can’t get a game at their parent clubs and a journeyman keeper in Lee Camp, the whole 31 days of January can be classed as a gamble, especially as our policy of signing untested youngsters and old has-beens has been such a success for us in the last 18 months.
Its seems more apparent than ever that Ellis Short thought bringing in a big name like Coleman was effectively job done - enough to appease the supporters that will turn up anyway and holler regardless.
They did not realise or if they did, they weren’t interested in the fact that signing Coleman was not the answer to our problems, but only the very first step of many towards resurrection.
What this last month shows is that our owner is not interested in restoring reputation, league position or even basic pride. In terms of his business empire we are now the ugly step child - unwanted, unloved, abused and hidden in the attic while our cruel stepfather refuses to even acknowledge our existence.
Coleman was left potless, helpless and powerless. His plans and tactical strategies are suffocated by the shackled restraints of his shadowy paymasters who despite Coleman’s best efforts are forcing him to perform miracles with his hands tied behind his back, while duck taping his mouth shut and gluing his eye lids closed.
Martin Bain had a whole month to sign an experienced striker. His sole purpose in transfer windows is to negotiate with players and make the best deal for the club, the player and the manager. You have to conclude that he’s failed - though its not all his fault of course. To solely put the blame on him for our deficiencies is wrong, but since he’s arrived on our doorstep with his tartan suitcase, it has also been a time of unbridled turmoil and certainly in recent times, unparalleled chaos and unequalled administrative anarchy. His time at our club has been synonymous with failure. There is no escaping that. But Short has also cut whatever oxygen Bain uses to keep his alien life form compatible to earth’s environmental conditions.
This transfer window has shone a spotlight the size of the sun onto our current frailties and laid them bare for all to see. Even southern-centric London based press who normally wouldn’t give us a second glance are dropping their jaws in shock at just how pitiful our plight has become. On TalkSPORT yesterday they seemed so stunned by our naked poverty and clear demise they nearly had a minute’s silence.
It appears we have one foot in the grave of League One. If Coleman and his collection of young lions can formulate a series of strategic victories that lead us away from danger and into the delightful, hazy comfort of rank mediocrity then no-one will be happier than me.
If that bright dawn should come they will have done so despite Bain and Short and not because of them and should such a day of celebration be possible, Coleman and his rag tag squad of the unwanted, the untested and unproven should be given the keys to the city. However, the pessimist in me fears that our one foot standing in the grave of League One could soon become two.