Sunderland are currently in a position whereby I find it difficult to ascertain exactly how I should feel about where our squad is at. On one hand, I feel we’re missing a number of players in a number of vital positions and can see that we’ve been lacking something in the pre-season games that we’ve played so far, but on the other I feel as though our current squad is already a lot stronger than pretty much every other club in League One. So should I be concerned, or are things nowhere near as bad as they appear?
I guess you just have to take a cursory glance towards the other big hitters in the division. Portsmouth were a big rival of ours last season, but they’ve lost their best player in Matt Clarke, with Jamaal Lowe expected to follow him as soon as his situation can be resolved with Wigan.
Can you imagine, for example, if we lost Jon McLaughlin and Aiden McGeady? The hammer blow of that occurring would murder fan morale, and the price it would cost to replace two players of their quality is probably something we couldn’t afford.
And Pompey aren’t the only team in the division who have had their squad pillaged. Other clubs have struggled to recruit, and those that have, have only been able to sign freebies from the league below and loans from other EFL clubs. The exceptions appear to be Peterborough, who have invested heavily without - as of writing - losing any of their best players.
So, when you consider that Sunderland have been able to sign two quality defenders and the number one goalkeeper from the team that finished just a few places below us, I don’t think we’ve had it that bad, even though we’ve not spent any actual cash on transfer fees for new players yet.
How much would Jordan Willis have cost us if he was under contract? Sometimes we forget that sensible business can be done in the free transfer market, and if Willis proves to be of Championship quality then I’ve got no doubts that he’ll be a difference maker in a position that let us down badly last season.
And whilst I’m fairly happy with our business so far, it’s clear that many others aren’t as content. I just can’t shake the feeling that some fans are being impatient. The transfer window doesn’t close until the end of August, after all.
It doesn’t matter which fan you talk to, the main topic of conversation whenever I speak to people is the fact we’ve not spent any money, and that we’re still way short of where we need to be.
But then, it’s easy to forget that the majority of the business done before the season starts in the third and fourth tier are free transfers, and then in the ensuing weeks the loans and money signings materialise. The final few days of the window are usually hectic, but that’s when most clubs do their best business.
I look at our squad now and don’t feel like it’s a million miles off where we need to be. We’re lacking some pace out wide, another central defender should Glen Loovens leave the club, a big lad in the centre of midfield and a striker to add competition up top, perhaps in the mould of Josh Maja. As things stand, it’s not inconceivable that we’ll get all of those things before the window slams shut.
The manager has been fairly open about the fact he has to get rid of a number of bodies in order to add to his ranks. And that’s fair enough. We already have too many players, and most of us could point to three or four squad members who are entirely expendable and need to be cut loose. If we can do that in the next five weeks whilst lining up replacements that are not only better, but are also younger and cheaper, then we’re winning.
But these things take time. I’m pretty positive that all will be well and we’ll start the season with a stronger squad than we ended the last.
It just requires us fans to sit on our hands and wait before pointing our fingers and demanding answers to questions that can’t be answered yet until things are too late - and, as one of the most impatient Sunderland fans going, I know exactly how frustrating it feels to not have everything in place as early as possible.