James Nickels says...
Of all the strikers linked with a move so far this window, the most shrewd piece of business may well be one that seems somewhat underwhelming at first glance; the possible £250,000 transfer of Liam Boyce from Burton Albion.
Aside from the immediate advantage that signing a player who always scores against us stops him doing just that any longer, I feel like this is a step in the right direction for our recruitment team. So far, of the 23 transfers completed under Stewart Donald’s tenure only five (at a push) have been players who are in-form, injury free and at a good age to develop (Willis, Dobson, O’Nien, J. McLaughlin and Power). Most of the rest have either been injured at the time of signing (Grigg, Wyke, McGeouch & Flanagan), badly out of form for their club side (Baldwin, Maguire, C. McLaughlin, Burge & Lynch), not playing for anyone at all (Ozturk, Morgan, Dunne, Sinclair, Sterling & De Bock), well past their peak (Loovens & Leadbitter) or were fit but have horrendous injury records (McNulty).
Some of the first category have flopped so far, whereas others with caveats have thrived - just look at Chris Maguire. He was derided as unfit, uninterested and untalented by just about every Bury fan in existence.
But, in general, the first list tends to offer a risk-free plot to transfer success, be it through performances for the club or sell-on value. Boyce is 27, has a proven track record of scoring and assisting in League One and has the most robust and impressive injury record since David Dunn survived that train crash in Unbreakable. Whilst neither being lightning quick nor seemingly a physical specimen, Boyce is adequate in both and a complete forward at this level. He could operate effectively in any of Phil Parkinson’s preferred attacking roles and by all accounts has a stellar work-rate.
In essence, he seems to be what we hoped we were getting in Marc McNulty. I’m a fan of the Scot, and we always seem to perform better when he is on the pitch and regularly fit – but he is simply a sick note, and we cannot afford to keep him in the squad. Should he move to either Hibs or Swindon as reported, Boyce would be a shrewd option to replace. While the name is neither well-known nor that glamorous, the signing could prove to be very effective and reminds me a lot of when Luke O’Nien was brought in 18 months ago.
Tom Albrighton says...
As with any League One signing, my initial reaction is always “meh”.
League One strikers are fundamentally flawed, hence why they operate at this level. Either yet to prove themselves, over the hill or woefully inconsistent, League One strikers aren’t anything to get excited about. As Will Grigg has shown, whether these players flop or succeed is tantamount to the flip of a coin.
With a logical hat on, Gary Madine is a PR disaster - a player with multiple criminal convictions as well as time at Her Majesty’s pleasure served, Madine won’t become a glowing role model. 3 goals in 2 seasons also says more than anything else in terms of why - on paper - his signature would be a disaster. Then again, Sunderland have signed in-form strikers who have flopped and relative nobodies who haven’t, there is no reason of rhyme to this.
And we’ve already signed Kyle Lafferty. More travelled than David Attenborough’s suitcase, the former Rangers man has been to the edge of Europe and back with varying levels of success. A focal point for Northern Ireland’s attack for many a year, Lafferty isn’t an out-and-out goalscorer, but he will serve to link play and bring others into the game. He’ll be hungry too - a good stint in England could give him an outside chance of joining the GAWA on a European tour should they qualify, adding to his 70+ caps in the process.
In terms of outside options, one player that continually intrigues me is that of Paul Smyth. Currently on loan at Wycombe, Paul hasn’t seen much football but possesses two attributes Sunderland are absolutely desperate for - pace and an eye for goal.
Still relatively young (22) Paul has time for forge himself into a striking option at this level. A sensation at Linfield provided a move to QPR where he has subsequently been loaned twice to League One. Injuries have hampered his progress but with few minutes under his belt at Wycombe, a loan for the pacey forward may be an option, especially if we sign another target man and offload Grigg and McNulty.
Some may remember Smyth from his performance for Accrington at the Stadium of Light where he destroyed us with his pace, bagging a goal in the process.
Gary Madine is feels like the right type of player, but just the wrong player for Sunderland.
We need a target man, one proven at this level; one that works hard and is a good age; with the added bonus of having worked with the manager before. In that sense, Madine is perfect - and he’s just been released on a free.
The problem, however, is that he’s a mag. We’ve got a terrible record when signing strikers who are mags and he’s got a bad track record for getting himself into bother up the pitch up here - it’s a recipe for disaster, really.
So, with that in mind, I’d like us to shop around a bit where possible.
I like the idea of signing Boyce. He’s not a glamorous player, but he works incredibly hard and has a good record at this level. His Burton contract is up in the summer and if they have any sense they’ll sell now whilst they can still demand a decent fee for his services. If we can add another to the mix - another physical forward who will really add some muscle to a weak position - I think we’ll have enough up top to keep us in the mix for promotion.