So far this summer Sunderland’s hunt for centre forwards has been frustrating.
The only major movement - going in the wrong direction - was when Joel Asoro was sold to recently-relegated Swansea City. At 19 years old, Asoro represented Sunderland’s most experienced and assured striking threat. The very recent addition of Jerome Sinclair has not exactly changed much, although we have to hope he can hit the ground running and prove exactly why he should have played more football over the last few years.
Positively, the club has changed tact transfer-wise with a far more fastidious approach. Gone are the days of “take the p*ss” transfers, replaced instead with the thorough and principled methods of Tony Coton in identifying and adding talent.
Time, however, does not appear to be on Sunderland’s side and it’s starting to feel tense, no matter how well business is being conducted - just as social chatter and our recent interview with owner, Donald Stewart, has reflected over the past week.
Knock backs and failures to get players over the line have been tough to swallow - tougher still because it’s all been washed down with the reality check that Sunderland really are League One. Early pursuits of players like Lyle Taylor and Florien Kamberi came to nothing, whilst we were ultimately priced out of a move for the talented but unproven Mohamed Eisa.
And while Billy Sharp might be the ideal centre forward candidate that has been linked with a move to Sunderland in this window, the likelier deal based on the sustained speculation feels like Bradford City’s Charlie Wyke.
Wyke, at 25, is seven years younger than Sharp. Lacking in experience comparatively, both strikers share impressive goal tallies. Since 2015, Sharp has netted 64 times in 124 appearances for Sheffield United; Wyke has 55 goals in 130 appearances for Carlisle United and Bradford City.
As more options are inevitably explored before the window shuts, the club need to make a habit of getting the centre forward position right more than getting it wrong.
Since Sunderland said goodbye to Kevin Phillips in 2003/04 they have signed just over 45 centre forwards, and it would be difficult to argue that more than a small handful have come close to filling his (golden) boots.
It would be a staggering look-back for Jack Ross, who must find a way of unearthing what has been a one in eleven signing for the club over the last fifteen years. If he can sign that elusive prolific Sunderland centre forward it will make his job - and this new era for the club - a far easier, exciting and successful one.
Interestingly, the top two clubs in League One last season had strikers and midfielders sharing the spoils. Where champions Wigan Athletic had Will Grigg’s 19 league goals and Nick Powell’s 15, second place Blackburn had Danny Graham’s 14 league goals and Bradley Dack’s 18.
Sunderland appear to have an attack-minded midfield with goals in it for the first time in a long while. All they need now is to have at least two lads in front of them who they know will score when given the opportunity to the hit the target.
As things stand, it’s over to Sunderland’s carefully-assembled recruitment team to hit the target before Charlton Athletic arrive at the Stadium of Light on the 4th of August.