As the summer rolls on and the new season draws nearer, expectations, and possibly frustrations, are undoubtedly rising. With Jack Ross under immense pressure to deliver promotion, Stewart Donald opting to cease his Twitter communication, and rumours of fresh investment dying down, there is a fog of uncertainty hanging over the club.
Thus far we have not been featured on any yellow Sky Sports tickers, nor have any reporters been delivering exclusives from outside the Academy of Light. On the transfer front, all is reasonably quiet right now.
This is not to say we have been completely inactive. As I write, we’ve signed the young goalkeeping prospect Ahmed Abdelkader and Lee Burge, recently released by Coventry, presumably to provide backup for Jon McLaughlin.
The arrival of Northern Irish international Conor McLaughlin, an ‘orthodox’ right-back, did at least get the ball rolling earlier this week. However, everybody can see where our major weaknesses currently lie. We lack strength and solidity across the park, particularly in defence, as well as guile and craft in midfield, and our strike-force - the subject of much debate - would certainly benefit from one or two quality additions.
Whether it is due to a lack of service, a lack of fitness, or simply being a victim of the ‘wrong system’, Will Grigg has yet to fully explode into life in a Sunderland shirt, while Charlie Wyke continues to divide opinion between those who see him as a promising target-man, or merely as a player who’ll ‘put himself about’ but offers very little otherwise.
Speaking to one of my fellow RR writers a few days ago, he described the lack of pace in our team as ‘criminal in modern football’. He was right. Pace frightens defenders and lifts fans. Pace, when allied to skill and creativity, makes for a combination that is often unstoppable. If the club can find these elusive, skillful speed-merchants and fit them into the team as part of a more attack-minded game-plan, we could find ourselves in a far better position from which to launch our promotion bid.
Much has already been written about our approach to transfers. Are we struggling to convince players that Sunderland is the right club for them?
Do lower-league players care about the facilities on offer or the history of the club as they consider an offer from that club? The sceptic in me says, ‘No’, but the romantic in me says, ‘Of course Player X wants to join us because he knows he will be joining a fabulous football club, regardless of the money we can offer him’.
Perhaps we’ve been left scarred by the mercenaries of recent years? Perhaps the current regime is erring on the side of low fees, low wages, and lower risk, as opposed to how the previous regime operated?
League One is a bunfight, both on the field, and in the transfer market.
The strong lure of the Championship means that teams are tripping over themselves to strengthen and to climb up the ladder.
Whether we like it or not, we are one of those clubs. Jack Ross must sell his vision for the future to potential signings, the owners must back him as much as possible, and hopefully the fans will be rewarded with the players who can make a difference.