Dear Roker Report,
It is important that Mr. Coton and Mr. Ross get a chance to show what type of recruitment system they have set up. They came in late in the summer last year, and would have very little time to move. Even in January, they were forced into finding a Maja replacement, though they should have been more prepared.
But, even if it is conceded that for both windows due to extenuating circumstances, they were unable to operate in the manner they wished, neither window was impressive. The financial commitment of the owners was excellent, the fans, who demanded big signings were somewhat delusional in my opinion. We should not need big signings in League 1, nor can we afford them, but I digress.
They signed exactly four players that could vaguely be described as fitting the Dortmund model: Dylan McGeouch, Jack Baldwin, Alim Ozturk, and Luke O’Nien. I use vaguely in the full sense of the word. McGeouch and Ozturk were not young though not old, and had succeeded in the Scottish Prem. They have both played inconsistently, and Ozturk has displayed even in those rare appearances, he is not good enough. Baldwin is about the same age as the other two, was proven in League 1, and was considered to have potential for the league above, and he has been just average. O’Nien was the only somewhat young, permanent signing. He has been pretty good, although Mr. Ross has been unable to find him a natural position.
The other signings Dunne, Sterling, Morgan, James, Power, Leadbitter, Flanagan, Grigg, Wyke, Loovens, McLaughlin, and Maguire were all loans, old, or had been promoted in the league before and were journeyman of sorts, failing to some extent in the league above; regardless, most of the players were unexceptional even in the latter category. So, even the “proven” players did not display great quality consistently.
I like the owners and the manager, and I believe in them. I know very little about Mr. Coton. But, all parties really need to display that they have a well organized plan, and make this a smooth, successful window. Because, while some players signed in the previous season may come to display their quality, I could argue so far, one permanent signing has met or exceeded expectations in the Dortmund Category and one has exceeded expectations in the ‘others’ category, namely Jon McLaughlin.
One conciliatory amendment, maybe there is a pressure to sign established players so as not to have fans question why the owners did not spend money, but there are plenty of clubs that accept the criticism and then through the success of the players signed, display their correctness in their selections.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: You make fair points regarding the fact that our recruitment last summer was rushed, and it was very much a case of getting bodies in through the door as our squad was so depleted.
O’Nien was a great find, taking a gamble on Maguire proved worthwhile and convincing McLaughlin to come here on the back of such a fantastic season in Scotland was a brilliant piece of business, but still we cannot ignore the fact that so many poor decisions were made. We can forgive what happened in the summer to an extent, but the January window was a terrible one for us.
We failed to address the issues that the squad had/has with a fundamental lack of height, pace and power, and left it until the last few hours of the window to sign replacements for the outgoing Maja and Sinclair - which proved costly, as Kaz Sterling barely played and Will Grigg wasn’t able to replace the goals that Maja had scored in the first half of the season.
I’d personally like to see us put something more advanced in place, although a complete upheaval of the club’s recruitment department could be costly if you do it during the summer when we should really be approaching players to come and sign for us.
John Park does sound like a good fit, though he doesn’t come without his problems either. Read my interview with this Celtic fan about Park to get more of an idea of what he’s about.
Whatever the case may be, I think it’s important that Sunderland have a long term, pragmatic plan in place for recruitment and not one that has the remit of dealing with short term problems, perhaps like the one Tony Coton and Richard Hill have headed up over the last year or so.
Hopefully this summer we’ll see the club add quality and youth rather than stop-gaps that have no long-term shelf life.
There are plenty of players out there who have untapped potential and would jump at the chance to play for Sunderland, and it’s about identifying them properly and perhaps even gambling where warranted on signing players that might cost a little bit more, but could provide us with the quality which will give us an edge over the other sides gunning for promotion.