It’s becoming increasingly clear to Sunderland supporters that, going forward, the club aim to explore previously untapped markets as they bid to rebuild from the ground up during pre-season.
Jack Ross arrives on Wearside with a wealth of knowledge on players currently operating within the system north of the border, and it should be expected that we’ll sign a good handful of new recruits from clubs in the two top divisions in Scotland.
In the past Sunderland have either spent beyond their means or have brought in well-known faces from better-placed clubs, and its a method that really hasn’t worked out for us.
Where previously we’d have afforded a decent weekly wage to players like Marc Wilson and Aiden McGeady, our new outlook appears to be focusing our efforts on unearthing talented players from smaller clubs in a bid to improve them when placing them in an environment conducive to hard-work and success.
The most recently linked Scottish player is Ross County right back Jason Naismith, a former player of Jack Ross at St Mirren and a defender who, through hard work, is making all the right noises in Scotland and is quite rightly attracting interest from clubs in England.
But... what is he like?
I can’t possibly claim to be an expert on what he’s like so, as such, I did what I usually do when these rumours surface and collared someone that has watched the player on a regular basis.
Step forward Ross County supporter Alan Ross, who very kindly answered my questions about the right back and what we could potentially see from him should he eventually move to Sunderland ahead of next season.
RR: So... Jason Naismith. Is he any good?
In short - yes. We didn’t have many candidates for player of the year given we were relegated, but he won some player of the year awards at the end of the season, including the player’s player of the year trophy.
RR: Sunderland are after a number of players this summer, and a good few of them will be full backs. Is he, in your opinion, good enough to play in League One (and potentially the Championship after that)?
I’ve not seen a lot of League One or Championship football in England, but he’s every bit as good as Liam Boyce and Jackson Irvine who went to Burton Albion over the last two seasons - and from what I understand they have done very well. So, based on that I’d say he’ll do well at Sunderland.
RR: What do you think it is that will endear Naismith most to the Sunderland fans?
He’s a battler - he strong and powerful and doesn’t shirk from a tackle. I always think a hard working player earns respect from fans, and he’s done that for us.
RR: What would you say his weaknesses are?
His biggest weakness is that he’s solely right footed.
As they say, his left leg is just for standing on!
RR: Sunderland are going to need tough defenders, but also players that can contribute offensively. What sort of right back is he?
He’s tall and athletic, with a good burst of pace - his trademark is his overlapping runs and crosses - sometimes they’re not always accurate, but they always cause problems to the opposition defence and that’s what matters.
He’ll probably not score many goals - I think he only got two for County in the last 18 months. He’s also more than capable of playing at centre back, so is quite versatile in that respect.
RR: What would you say the general opinion is of him amongst Ross County supporters?
He’s well liked, and will be missed. As I said earlier he got some of the player of the year awards last season - which is never easy for a defender - as goal scorers generally win those.
Verdict: Roker Report says....
As I said in my question to Alan, we’re going to need to sign a good few full backs this summer and this fella sounds like the type of defender we’ve been missing. No-nonsense, decent going forward, physical and capable of contributing offensively - think a younger, less-heralded version of Phil Bardsley.
The rumoured fee in the Scottish press has been around £200,000, which doesn’t seem like a massive risk and would certainly suggest that we’re prepared to spend a bit in order to improve our fortunes next season.
As Alan said, players have left Ross County in recent seasons and have managed to stand out at Championship level, so we shouldn’t worry too much about players coming down and making a successful transition.