Who doesn’t love a pair of Swedish twins? Martin and Marcus Olsson are both free agents this summer and are both still looking for new clubs. They both play left wing back too, and both played Championship football last season. Martin was released at the end of last summer by Swansea City, whilst Marcus was also allowed to leave upon the culmination of his contract after he missed the majority of last season through an injury - though he’s back fit, and featured for The Rams’ second string at the back end of the campaign.
Sunderland need competition for Denver Hume, and both men would undoubtedly provide that as well as adding experience in a position where we sorely lack it. Wing back is a difficult position, but since both men have played that role in the Premier League you’d expect they’d be more than comfortable should they elect to drop to League One.
The right back/right wing back role in Sunderland’s squad is a strange one at the moment. We signed Conor McLaughlin - a right back - on a free from Milwall this summer, but it appears that he’s been brought in to play at right-centre half. Our right wing back options are Lynden Gooch - a winger who mostly plays off the left - and Luke O’Nien, a centre mid who played out of position at right back last summer.
If we’re going to persist with this system then it may be of benefit that we actually bring someone on board with vast experience of playing there, and also has a proven record of being effective in the final third.
Sunderland fans are all too familiar with what Alan Hutton can do after he spent a year with the club back when he was a Spurs player, and after his release by Aston Villa the former Rangers man is looking for a club. Whilst he’s now aged 34 he played a lot for the promoted Villans last season, and he’s still capable of playing in the Championship, but with the season already underway and no offers apparent it could well be that the Scotland international would be tempted to come back to Wearside and play regular football.
Another man in the twilight of his career but who has considerable experience as a right wing back is Tyrone Mears, who spent last season with West Brom in the Championship. Mears was used largely as back up for the side who finished 4th in the league above. Don’t be fooled by Mears’ age - a broken leg 7 years ago aside, he’s barely been injured in his career and is a dependable pro who has vast experience from his time playing in the Premier League, Championship, in France and the USA.
Whilst Sunderland are well-stocked in defence, it’s no secret that we’re keen to shift someone along whilst supplementing with another player who can add height, aggression and power to a position that sorely lacks it.
Joel Lynch was a regular starter last season in the Championship for QPR and has some tremendous upsides to his game, despite the fact he turns 32 in October. He’s big, which is a massive tick in the box, but perhaps most importantly he’s left-footed. In Jack Ross’s current system we play with three defenders, yet none of our current crop are naturally left footed. Lynch could play either down the middle or on the left of a three, and would be a huge improvement on both Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin.
We’re also lacking brute power, and perhaps the signing of former Celtic defender Efe Ambrose would go some way to addressing that issue.
The Nigeria international decided to cut his contract short at Hibernian in January to join Frank Lampard’s Derby County, but wasn’t able to force his way into the now-Chelsea manager’s plans and left at the end of the season.
He’s still looking for a new club and whilst a step down to League One might not be his ideal scenario, Ambrose has played for some big clubs in the past and might fancy a shot at playing for Sunderland - especially since it would appear no better offers are forthcoming.
Sunderland are lacking in depth out wide, and the truth of the matter really is that we need to sign a player who possesses raw pace and power - attributes that aren’t easy to find in players on the free agent list. That said, there are a small handful of realistic free agent signings that Sunderland could make that would add proven quality.
Craig Conway is still on the lookout for a new club after five-and-a-half stay in Lancashire came to an end when he was released by Blackburn Rovers at the end of last season. The Scotsman averaged almost 6 crosses per game for Rovers last season and whilst time is not on his side, he’s clearly a player who tries to create for the forwards - something that Sunderland’s current crop evidently lack.
Northern Ireland international Jamie Ward left Nottingham Forest in the summer, and spent the first half of the last campaign playing for promoted Charlton Athletic in League One. With a number of Northern Ireland internationals already in our squad it could be that Ward would be a good fit at Sunderland, especially since the ex-Derby forward still possesses decent pace and is famed for his high offensive and defensive work-rate.
Sunderland are looking at the possibility of moving third-choice forward Charlie Wyke on in this window, meaning that there could be an opportunity for the club to bring on board a striker with similar physical attributes but who is more suited to playing the ‘target-man’ role that would better suit playing alongside Will Grigg and Marc McNulty.
Kyle Lafferty has played for Northern Ireland with Grigg and is a mobile, technical striker who has a decent goalscoring record for a player who has been largely used as a battering ram throughout his career of playing for clubs like Rangers, Norwich and Palermo. He spoke this week about his ideal move being a switch back to former side Hearts, but his future is still up in the air and he could be up for a move here.
That said, people will understandably be put off by Lafferty’s questionable attitude and that perhaps explains why he’s as yet been unable to find himself a new club this summer.
That aside, one name that continually crops up when Sunderland fans discuss potential free transfer signings is Fraizer Campbell, who left Hull City at the end of last summer. The 31-year old played 39 times in the Championship last term, scoring 12 goals, proving that not only has he still got an eye for goal but that he’s fit and durable enough to cope with the rigours of playing regularly in the EFL. The off-ball movement and finishing ability that made Fraizer an England international won’t have evaded him, and he’d surely be a top marksman at this level if he opted to drop down to League One for a season.