Q: Who are the two players you think Sunderland could and should realistically sign this summer, and why?
There are two players who I really wanted Sunderland to go out and sign in January that I still think would add height and athleticism in areas of the pitch where we are desperately lacking players that have those attributes.
First up is MK Dons attacker Chuks Aneke, who was recently linked with a move to Portsmouth. I’m astonished that Aneke plays League Two football in all honesty, and the fact he managed to score 17 goals in League Two last season (and nine in League One in the season prior) shows that he’s got an eye for goal despite playing largely in an attacking midfield role. I’ve watched Aneke four times this season and in each game he’s really impressed me. He stands out a mile at a level where there are very few technically gifted players operating.
He’s big, quick and physical put has a fantastic touch and the ability to take a man on. Aneke can play out wide, up top or - where I think he’s at his best - as a number ten.
He’s out of contract this summer and will most definitely end up either in the Championship or in League One, and I’d be disappointed if we weren’t one of the clubs in for him. Considering he’d cost naught in terms of transfer fees and has absolutely everything we are looking for in terms of physical attributes down the core of our side, we’d be daft not to make a serious play for him.
My second target would be Stoke City defender Harry Souttar. When Stoke’s U21s side came to the Stadium of Light to play us in the Checkatrade Trophy he was easily the best player on the park, and I saw him again against our U23s at Eppleton CW later in the season where he again stood out a mile. At 6ft6, Souttar is physically impressive and would offer everything we are lacking in a position that has been a real problem for Sunderland all season.
He spent the second half of the season on loan at Fleetwood Town in League One and whilst he’s at an age where he needs to be playing first team football, I’m not sure he’ll get it at Stoke City where they’ll invest heavily next season to ensure they’re in the race for promotion, and already have strength in depth in that position in the form of Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Danny Batth and Geoff Cameron.
Craig Davies says...
Around 30 seconds after the miserable defeat against Charlton I tweeted that we needed a cull at Sunderland. I received loads of critical responses and understandably so.
Just to qualify, I had just witnessed a terrible and weak performance. My little boy was emotional and my instant response was based on frustration rather than logic. But when I look at it now, with time and hindsight on my side, a cull is naturally unnecessary, but at the same time I’m not certain of how many of our starting 11 I’d fight tooth and nail to keep.
So finding just two players to boost our squad is difficult. We likely need at least 4 top notch lower league players. But the two I’ve chosen, I believe are both realistic, although by League One standards, they would be pricey in terms of fee and salary.
First up I’d sign Funso Ojo, a defensive midfielder from Scunthorpe. Ojo was chased by a number of top 10 championship clubs in January. He’s a top level performer in League One, a former Belgium U21 international and the Scunny fans love him.
Local journalist Paul Crute of Scunthorpe Live heaps glowing praise on this athletic, strong and combative midfielder:
“When Scunthorpe signed Ojo last season he was a player not many people had heard of - but he quickly endeared himself to the Scunthorpe fans both on and off the pitch. Ojo is a class act. He very rarely loses the ball when in possession and has the ability to play a defence-splitting pass but is equally as comfortable in trying to break up attacks and is never afraid to put everything into a tackle. He has a great will to win, great passion and absolutely hates it when his team loses. Ojo definitely has the qualities to make the step up to the Championship, especially when he is at the top of his game.”
For me we’re too small and too slow in central midfield. I adore Catts and Leadbitter, I really do. But despite their raw passion and commitment, they’re getting no younger, no faster, no taller or athletic. Ojo is quick and strong. He can go box to box and can make telling passes. We need that unadulterated athleticism. He may be able to form a new, younger and perhaps a little more dynamic partnership with Max Power.
My second pick is Matt Clarke from Portsmouth. At 22 he’s got his best years ahead of him. He’s strong as an ox, a leader on the pitch and at 6”2 he would add some much needed muscular height to our team. He’s been immense for Pompey, the fans love him, and he’s attracted interest from a large group of Championship teams. We need leadership, strength and confidence at the back and it’s an area of huge concern for Sunderland fans. Signing Clarke would also annoy the Portsmouth fans and that alone would entertained me for the rest of the season. Both players I’ve mentioned are leaders, both robust and sturdy. Both are quick for their positions and both are 27 or under with years ahead of them.
Both earn (according to various sources) less than half of Cattermole’s salary put together, so perhaps our more attractive salaries could tempt them as well as playing for this wonderful club and in front of our beautiful and unique supporters.
Jack Ford says...
For me, we need to be signing about five or six in the summer, but I’ve chosen two positions in which we definitely need improvement: our number ten and centre backs.
I really do like George Honeyman as a player, but for me his industry and attitude suit a deeper midfield role far better than the number ten position he’s played this season. Sammie Szmodics is a player I’ve seen play for Colchester a few times in the last couple of seasons, and while he’s been plying his trade in League Two I think he’s definitely capable of making the step up.
At only 23, Sammie has plenty of time to grow with the team, and has the skill and aggression to suit a high pressing team. 14 goals and 9 assists last season for Colchester beats the output of any of our players, and shows his ability to both score and create. He definitely wouldn’t cost too much for us, and is exactly what we need in that role behind the striker.
Next up, centre back. This might be a bit more fantastical as I think this is a player with lots of interest, but if last season taught us anything it’s that players are willing to drop from the Scottish Premiership to League One.
John Souttar at Hearts is a very impressive centre back. While I think we definitely need some experience alongside him, Souttar has played over 150 games at only 22, and has the height and athleticism we’re crying out for at the back. Souttar is both a solid defender and comfortable with the ball at his feet, and I think he’d fit perfectly into the system Ross says he wants to play.
Again, this would be a sound investment for a player that could grow with the team up the divisions or leave for a healthy profit. He’d cost a fair bit for League One, but if we’re willing to spend millions on Grigg, a centre back should also rank highly on our list of priorities.