Four billionaires, four wins on the bounce and a bank holiday weekend bathed in glorious sunshine. For the first time in a good while, Sunderland fans had nothing to worry about, apart from which beer garden to lay down roots.
I appeared on the Roker Rapport Podcast for the first time on Sunday and thought about talking points - what could be up for debate? Despite his hattrick I still dared to question Chris Maguire’s work rate. Healthy debate was had, but the expected outpouring of negativity to the podcast didn’t follow. Sunderland fans were really, really chilled and happy.
Then, Tuesday morning, the S**T hit the fan, at least on Twitter. Following an exclusive chat with Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony ahead of Saturday’s clash on London Road, it emerged that Sunderland had actually TURNED DOWN the chance to sign Marcus Maddison - the signing many Sunderland fans had yearned for all summer.
As always, MacAnthony was very forthright, and whilst his tone and timing may be a bit of clever kidology ahead of Saturday his openness on the dialogue about any potential transfer has got some fans in a virtual meltdown. Four days of positivity was enough - at last, after four long, beer sodden, sunny days, fans have something to criticise Donald, Ross, and seemingly, the recruitment team for as well.
So, lets break it down.
Maddison was OFFERED to Sunderland, along with a number of Championship clubs, most notably Hull. Why? Well he’s running down his contract (ends summer 2020), a contract with a £2.5million release clause. It’s also well documented that he is a Sunderland fan. MacAnthony states he’ll offer him a new contract later in the season - is it just to appease Peterborough fans in the meantime?
The only reason Peterborough would be interested in selling their star man to a promotion rival would be to avoid losing Maddison for nothing next summer. They pretty much know that is going to happen.
Despite being offered to multiple clubs in the Championship, none of them have bitten either. MacAnthony is a big personality and they saw him coming a mile off. All those clubs are likely to think the same. Why pay £2.5 million for a player who hasn’t played or proven himself above League One when he will be available for free in the summer?
He’s much less of a gamble on a free.
I have seen tweets saying ‘its only £2.5 million’ but the approach to overpaying or even paying the going rate for unproven players has got us to League 1: think Ndong, Djilobodji Lens, etc. I’ve also seen tweets saying he’s a Sunderland lad and a fan. Whilst Fabio Borini wasn’t born in Sunderland Royal, or even a Sunderland fan, that emotional outpouring of ‘bring him home’ went tits up too.
Why hasn’t Maddison gone public if he wants to run down his contract and leave? Truth is, if he has a good season and becomes available on a free, all of a sudden he’ll have lots more options. At 25 his next two contracts are the most rewarding of his career - leave on a free and he’ll bump up his wages. For Maddison to wait is a no-brainer. His subtle mentions of Sunderland on his social media accounts are simply to feed his ego. I’m okay with footballers having an ego, by the way.
MacAnthony gives the impression it was Richard Hill who ultimately made the decision on whether to pursue Maddison. He stopped short of whether Sunderland would monitor the situation, which I am sure they will.
Where would Maddison fit in the team? Wyke is on form and plays a role Maddison does not. ‘King’ Maguire is on fire and McGeady has started the season as well as any other since his arrival. So naturally, I see tweets suggesting Maddison in, Gooch out. However they are totally different players. Anyone who thinks Maddison would bring Gooch’s energy, industry and commitment are just kidding themselves. We cannot keep a clean sheet and having Maddison, Maguire and McGeady in the same team reduces those chances further.
Looking at the statistics - I’ve a big birthday coming next year so it’s a while since I played Championship Manager, and whilst I appreciate data has never been more important to football clubs, looking at any data is isolation does not justify mutli-million pound transfers.
To compare: McGeady has 2 goals and 2 assists. Maguire has 4 goals, 1 assist. Marcus Maddison has 1 goal, 5 assists. Callum Camps (Rochdale) has 3 goals, 4 assists. Jordy Hiwula (Coventry) has 3 goals, 1 assist.
All three (Maddison, Camps and Hiwula) are out of contract in the summer of 2020, yet why no urge to criticise those in charge for not signing Camps or Hiwula, both of whom would cost nowhere near £2.5 million?
Hiwula was excellent at the Stadium of Light last season and Camps was easily Rochdale’s best player against Sunderland last week. Yes, Maddison’s statistics last season were good too, but lets not fall for Championship Manager style statistics and transfer talk, coupled with McAnthony’s clever PR with sections of Sunderland’s fan base on Twitter.
Marcus Maddison cannot go to the Championship before January and only Sunderland have the resources to buy him in League One. Either a cut-price deal in January, or let him run down his contract and if he really wants to ‘come home’ his agent will be in touch and he will choose Sunderland, ahead of other offers, if that’s what he really wants.
I’m sure Sunderland will reassess, hopefully on track to become, or be, a Championship club. If his agent doesn’t come knocking then good luck to him - I want players who are desperate to play for Sunderland AFC.
Stewart Donald’s response to some comments on MacAnthony’s comments were interesting. Perhaps a one-liner stating the recruitment team weren’t interested in Maddison at this time would have sufficed?
MacAnthony is a game player - sometimes it’s good to remove yourself from the game.
Sunderland are in good shape at the moment, the sun is still shining and some game-changing investment is seemingly weeks away. Lets just focus on the players we have got, apply some sun cream, chill out and add to the current momentum.