On yesterday’s late night...
It kind of goes against how I prefer to work and ideally how I do things.
I know the window has this excitement created around it to make good television or whatever it might be, but from a professional point of view, you would prefer it to have not been as dramatic as it was late last night.
I think I said previously that you try and come out of a window in a stronger position than when you went into it, or at least not weakening in any way and I think we’ve managed to do that.
On the completed deals...
Obviously, Kazaiah Sterling will join us from Tottenham Hotspur. He arrived this morning on a loan until the end of the season, which I’m pleased about.
He’s a young player who has a huge amount of potential and he gives us a dynamic option in a forward area.
We’d already recruited Grant Leadbitter and Lewis Morgan previous to that. Obviously, it’s been well documented in terms of having a bid accepted for Will Grigg very late last night. My understanding is that it looks like that will all go ahead, in terms of how close we were to the deadline.
I think from an EFL perspective, it’s OK. At the minute, we’re waiting on FA approval, but I’m led to believe that it should be OK. I don’t it’s appropriate for me to go into detail on that player in particular until I was absolutely sure that was the case.
It’s still very early in the morning, but hopefully over the course of the next hour or so we should get confirmation of that.
On the frustrating wait signing Grigg...
I suppose we were in a difficult position from earlier on in the window that we sold our top scorer with a week to go in the window. Any club would find that challenging.
If you look at around the clubs that are competing in League One at the moment to achieve promotion, Lee Bowyer’s probably the only other manager that can maybe point to that challenge. With losing Karlan Grant, although he still has Lyle Taylor, he still had a forward player that contributed a lot this season, losing him to Huddersfield fairly late.
When you have a limited amount of time, it makes things more difficult. Also, the good players that are out there, teams don’t want to lose them. It was quite difficult to try and strengthen in that time period.
As I mentioned at the beginning, it would have been preferable to do any type of business earlier. But hopefully we’ve managed to get there in the end.
On Stewart’s role in the transfer window...
I’m probably the one that’s a bit more balanced and pragmatic and measured in my approach.
Look, Stewart, I’ve said it often enough from a personal point of view with my relationship Stewart in how he is as a person, he genuinely gets excited about owning this football club and everything that comes with it.
He’s been very supportive with everything I’ve tried to do at the club, and I think he was keen to try and make sure that we left the window in a stronger position and I think he feels that he’s managed to do that.
Do you feel you’re strong enough now to achieve promotion?
I think we also have to point out that the squad has had a good season to date. It almost became this rush to sign players, but that squad has done well this season.
We’re not top of the league, but we’re in a good position, we’re in a semi-final and we’ve only lost two league games.
So, if we brought ones in, I felt as if we needed to add value. I do believe that Jimmy Dunne was a position we needed. Grant is a really good player and is absolutely determined to bring success to this club. Lewis is somebody I know really well and then the very obvious one was a striker because we lost Jerome Sinclair in the window and Josh compounded that.
I feel as if we’ve left ourselves in a position now as we go into the remaining 19 league games and the cup semi-final, hopefully a final, in a good position.
How many of the new signings will feature tomorrow?
Obviously, Jimmy has already been in the squad, so maybe take him out of it.
Lewis and Grant will certainly be in the squad. Kazaiah only travelled up late last night, so we’ll see how he is this morning. Will, obviously he’s still not confirmed yet as a Sunderland player, so that’s maybe an obvious one.
On Grant Leadbitter...
I think first and foremost for me, it was a football decision. Yes, we have got a number of options in that area of the pitch, but I’ve also said that we need to bring a greater control to games at times, particularly when we go ahead as we have done a lot recently.
Grant is highly proven at a level that we’re currently operating in and that was shown by the other offers he had or other opportunities he could have had to stay in the Championship.
Then you add to that what we’re trying to create within the club. Not just the squad we’ve put together, but how we want to be moving forward. For me, if my time here was to end tomorrow or in five years, I should leave behind a squad that is a Sunderland squad.
I’ve learnt that from 7 months in the job and Grant very much fits that profile. From speaking to him, the desire he’s got to take this club back up the leagues, even in the short period he’s been in this week, it’s very evident that that determination is there.
So, I think it’s a really good signing for us.
On Lewis Morgan...
Firstly, when you get the opportunity to work with a player that you trust and know well, it’s a plus.
Also, as a young man, as a character and his attitude towards the game, he very much fits in with what we’re trying to do.
Also, we’ve only really had Lynden and Aiden for majority of the season that give us natural options in wide areas. I know Duncan, but I still very much view him as anything we get from him is a bonus.
So, to have another option in wide areas is a plus for us. Lewis is so two-footed that he can play from either side as well.
It gives me another option, but it also strengthens that competition for places, I think that’s important at this time of the year as well.
On Saturday’s game...
Every game for us has been a big game this season. It has felt that way as well, there’s never a game that’s felt any less intense than the one previous or the one that lies ahead.
Saturday will be the same again for us. For me, it’s certainly been very much about still trying to concentrate on what the biggest part of my job is and preparing teams properly in among everything else that’s been going on.
It’s nice to get to the 1st of February and look forward to the game tomorrow. Also, we now have a clear understanding of the next run we have ahead of us, the number of games we’ve got and where it takes us if we produce positive results within them.
That sometimes is a good thing, there’s that clear reward for us going and winning games.
On A.F.C Wimbledon...
It’s interesting as well because I’ve spoken often enough about how tough this league is and there’s a number of cup results this season, I know they’re one off games, but there’s been a number of cup results this season, not just Wimbledon’s against West Ham, that have shown the strength of this league that we currently find ourselves trying to compete to get out of.
That was just another example of it. I’m sure they’ll come in probably as good a frame of mind as they’ve been for a few weeks, not just winning the game, but the manor of the victory as well.
Look, every game we’ve had at the Stadium of Light this season, there’s been no easy games for us, and I don’t expect it to be any different tomorrow.
Speaking about our motivation to win the game, they have a huge motivation as well in trying to not become too detached in that bottom position.
How do you feel about Maja’s departure?
What I feel personally is irrelevant because I’m here to manage a football club. It’s not about whether I feel happy, sad, disappointed or whatever it might be.
I spoke to Josh during the week and I’m not going to say anything other than the relationship I had with him was very good. I think there was some life-learning experiences for Josh through that month that we had that will stand him in good stead as a person, never mind as a footballer. We all have that at different stages in our life.
The contribution he made to our season to date was fantastic. I’m disappointed I don’t have him because I enjoyed working with him and I think he’s a talented player.
I wish him every success in his move and he’s somebody that I think will remain in contact with me because I think he did value the help we gave him over the last 7 months as well.
On the importance of having a 10-day break...
It wasn’t a bad break for us to have. The players probably enjoyed a bit of a break as well.
Did I get much thinking space? Well, to a degree.
More so for me was the fact that we’ve had a clear week of training and also the early part of this week we were able to push them in training a lot more than I’ve been able to do in this previous 6/7 weeks, just because of the number of games.
That was reinvigorating for me as a manager because I got back to coaching the way I enjoy doing. The players have enjoyed it as well because they got back to us making those demands on them.
It will be beneficial for us and hopefully we’ll see the benefits of that, starting tomorrow.