Jake Clarke-Salter (on loan from Chelsea)
When Jake Clarke-Salter arrived from Chelsea at the start of January it was a piece of business that was met with intrigue from Sunderland supporters - the majority of whom had likely never heard of the former Bristol Rovers loanee before his name was linked with a move to Wearside.
As such, we collared a couple of bods who knew a bit about him - Chelsea fan & Sports Journalist Simon Phillips, and Bristol Post reporter Jack Vittles - and their insight on what the player could potentially bring us will have pleased the majority of those that cared to read it.
Simon Phillips: Overall, a quality addition to the Sunderland side. Excellent for Chelsea as he needs regular football. He has everything there and is highly regarded at Stamford Bridge.
Very comfortable on the ball, meaning he is capable of playing anywhere across the back. Calm, composed and has a decent eye for a pass. Many Chelsea fans saw him as a successor for John Terry as he shares some similarities. Lacks pace, but reads the game very well and is good in the air. One of those ‘great feet for a big man’ types.
Jack Vittles: Clarke-Salter’s time as Rovers wasn’t altogether successful. An injury ruled him out for three months but just 13 appearances across the season shows Darrell Clarke’s wasn’t entirely willing to trust the young defender. He started around half of the games he was available for.
However, some Rovers fans couldn’t understand why he wasn’t given more opportunities. Many thought he would flourish at a higher level, as he perhaps wasn’t physically cut out for League One football.
His skill on the ball was never in doubt but his commitment in the tackle and ability to cope with large frontmen was questioned. That said, Clarke-Salter enjoyed a sensational summer with the Young Lions and perhaps flourishes in a slightly less physical level of football.
Kazenga LuaLua (free transfer from Brighton)
Like Clarke-Salter, there’s an air of intrigue around the signing of LuaLua, though for different reasons. Unlike JCS, Kazenga Lua Lua is an experienced Championship performer, and the question that most Sunderland supporters have is around whether or not - taking injuries and lack of playing time into account - he can bring the type of form he showed over many years at Brighton here to Sunderland.
With that in mind we spoke to Alan Wares, co-presenter of The Albion Roar radio show and podcast to get the lowdown - and here’s what he said.
On Lualua’s style of play...
Kazenga LuaLua - fast, energetic, tricky, maddening, a joy to watch when in full flow. He is best appreciated - a little unfairly perhaps - as an impact player.
He can turn a game when coming on with 25 mins to go - and he has done so several times. Of course, if he comes on with 25 mins to go and you’re 4- up, it’s ‘take the piss’ time. He draws lots of fouls, and often gets players yellow-carded (legitimately) cause they can’t keep up.
On other days, he can hold the play up and stop the flow for the sake of a trick. On balance though, he’s an asset rather than a liability as long as you keep him happy and feed him the ball. He takes his defensive duties seriously too.
On why it hasn’t worked out for him recently & Ian Holloway claimed he felt LuaLua lost his confidence following the death of his dad...
That is entirely possible. And he lost some pace after he broke his ankle about five years ago, though he still has plenty to burn. As for why he didn’t work out at QPR - probably because their system didn’t suit. As for why he left here - we got better players in. He can be a little bit stroppy - not Sunderland-In-The-Premier-League stroppy, but he’s always happiest out wide taking on grubby full-backs. Look out for his backflip too when he scores.
On how Albion fans will view him upon his departure...
Many still miss him now - especially when one of our wingers has a poor game, though that’s rare. In his final days here, the improvement in the rest of the squad seemed to pass him by a bit. However, he will be loved for his athleticism, his pace, (usually) his willingness, and of course his skill and goals. He hasn’t played for us for a while, so not totally missed, but much appreciated nonetheless. If you look after him, you’ve got a gem there.
Ovie Ejaria (on loan from Liverpool)
Despite leaving it fairly late to announce the signing of Liverpool’s Ovie Ejaria, Sunderland fans had been expecting the news all day and were relieved to hear that the deal had been completed.
That said, the signing of Ejaria is a gamble much like the one we’ve taken with Jake Clarke-Salter - whilst he’s incredibly highly rated, comes from a top academy and has impressed on a national stage at youth level with England, he’s still unproven and quite what we can expect is anyone’s guess.
On that, we pulled our mates from over at fellow SBNation site Liverpool Offside to give us their thoughts on the player, and they seemed fairly realistic in their assessment - he’s very raw, but don’t get too excited straight away.
He’s a talented box-to-box player and Liverpool fans thought he was on the verge of breaking into the first team last season as a regular - at least for the cups as a starter and a bench player for the league - until he picked up an injury that sidelined him for the second half of it.
Since then he’s been working his way back with the U23s so it’s a little hard to say where his progress is at as a first team player.
Clearly he’s got talent on the ball, a cool head in possession, and can pick a pass. But whether he’s going to hit the ground running in a highly competitive environment is a bit of a question mark, and despite his talent he is still fairly raw - and, right now, a bit of a jack of all trades sort. He won’t be the answer if you’re counting on him either to be the primary anchor player or the one providing the bulk of any attacking threat from midfield and is probably best suited to playing in a three with a true holding player behind him and more of a natural ten ahead.
He also needs to grow into his frame a bit - right now, he’d best be described as lanky. That doesn’t seem to get in the way of his ball control in tight situations, though, and he should be able to help Sunderland in both possession and transition. He just won’t be blowing people up defensively or dribbling past five before scoring a goal himself.
He’s a useful all-rounder, though, and really did seem on the verge of breaking into the first team at Liverpool regularly this time a year ago before the injury set him back. If he’s back to that point, he’s good enough to improve most midfields in the Championship as long as he’s not being asked to be the defensive or attacking specialist.
Ashley Fletcher (on loan from Boro)
Ashley Fletcher is another young loanee with a point to prove - except, his point is perhaps that bit stronger than a few of the others we’ve brought in during this transfer window.
Having started out at Manchester United, he then moved on full of promise to West Ham, who gave him his big break before he transferred again, this time to Middlesbrough for £6.5m quid just this summer gone - a fee that far exceeds our total spend on about 15 players in the last two transfer windows.
Fletcher has been a victim of circumstance at Boro - in short, he’s one of about five forwards that they have vying for a starting berth, the most high profile of which is £15m club-record transfer Britt Assombalonga.
With that in mind it’s pretty easy to see why it hasn’t worked out for him, but in order to add some context we spoke to Boro Fan TV presenter and friend of the site, Jimmy Lees.
There are a number of reasons (why it hasn’t worked out), to be honest. First of all, Garry Monk went striker-happy in the transfer window and bought Britt Assombalonga, Fletcher and Martin Braithwaite in addition to Patrick Bamford and Rudy Gestede.
Because of this, time on the pitch has been limited for the lad. Therefore, he had to impress instantly to keep his space in the team but, also, in order to impress our very impatient fans.
You can see there’s a talented footballer in there. This move just hasn’t been right for him. I think he has a point to prove now, which is exactly the kind of player Sunderland need in my opinion. If you can give him a run of games and get his confidence up, then you have a player. Will your crowd be patient enough with him, though?
He can finish. He has pace - a nice drop of the shoulder. He’s good in the air. He just needs a run of games to get match fit. He’s scored a few for us without hardly playing.
Like most young strikers, he needs confidence. I think that Chris Coleman could be a great manager for him.
Lee Camp (on loan from Cardiff)
Has tracksuit, will travel - Lee Camp arrives at Sunderland having traipsed all over the Football League throughout his 16-year career as a professional footballer.
Quite what we can make of this is up in the air, but there’s no denying that the player adds freshness to an area of our squad badly in need of it.
Whether Camp will be immediately installed as number one isn’t yet clear, but having spoke to The Star’s Rotherham United writer, Paul Davis, we can feel just a little bit better about what we might have to come from the former Northern Ireland international.
Lee Camp is a hero in the eyes of Rotherham United fans after his exploits in helping them survive in the Championship in 2015/16. He was a runaway winner of the Player of the Year award and deservedly so.
He’s not the bravest goalkeeper I’ve ever seen, but his shot-stopping was sensational. Millers supporters loved him and the way he celebrated in front of them after wins. He’’s a thoroughly decent bloke as well.
He certainly doesn’t make his defence panic in any kind of way. He’s not a keeper who’ll come and claim everything, but his defenders will learn that. His instinct is to stay close to his line. It works for him because he’s capable of unbelievable saves.
My only worry would be how long he was out through injury.