Transfer deadline day in England is Friday 31st January, at 11pm. The following day Sunderland take on Portsmouth at Fratton Park, so leaving our business until late in the day might prove troublesome for Phil Parkinson, who is likely to head down south with the rest of his squad on Friday in preparation for the big game.
There are many issues within Sunderland’s playing squad yet to be resolved, with a number of incomings and outgoings still likely before the window ‘slams shut’.
Whilst the core of Sunderland’s squad appears strong, it lacks depth in many key positions and Parkinson will be keen to sort that out before Friday.
What appears obvious is that Sunderland are desperate for cover and competition in the event that Denver Hume gets injured, or struggles to maintain his current good form. The problem, however, is that attacking left backs with pace don’t just grow on trees.
Some fans on social media were disappointed to see that Hartlepool sold their young prospect Peter Kioso to Luton Town, or more so that we weren’t even credited with an interest in a player seemingly on our doorstep - one that was ready to make a step up to a higher level, in a position we really need to strengthen.
There have been murmurings that Sunderland have been looking at a number of former Rangers left backs in their search for some experienced cover, with both Lee Wallace and Declan John apparently available to leave their respective clubs on loan.
Sunderland are also desperate for cover in the centre of the park.
We’ve been linked strongly to Greg Docherty of Rangers, but that rumour has cooled considerably over the last week or so, and press reports have alleged that we’ve enquired about both Shrewsbury Town captain Oliver Norburn and Manchester City’s Matt Smith.
But, just like at left back, there don’t seem to have been many strong links to anyone - it feels like we’re hedging our bets in order to see who becomes available towards the end of the window, in search of a better deal.
That said, failure to sign someone in the centre would be leaving ourselves short.
In the event that Max Power or George Dobson suffer a dip in form, our only real backup is Grant Leadbitter, who has proven on multiple occasions this season that he’s simply not good enough any more when it comes to getting involved in the inevitable scraps that come with playing up against battle-hardened League One midfielders.
Whilst Phil Parkinson may well be content with having Duncan Watmore and Elliot Embleton as the competition for Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire in the two attacking midfield roles playing off our main striker, the links to Bristol City’s Antoine Semenyo don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
Sunderland’s current attack lacks another player in the mould of Lynden Gooch - someone who can run at defenders with pace and trickery, and make them commit to challenges.
Semenyo apparently has bags of skill and is very quick, but we face stiff competition from Doncaster Rovers. Convincing the youngster that Sunderland is the best place for him, in a position where we can’t really guarantee that he’ll start games, will prove to be difficult.
This is obviously reliant on the club being able to shift one or two out, but some variety in attack would go a long way to improving our chances of promotion this season.
Charlie Wyke has established himself as first choice under Phil Parkinson, and in Kyle Lafferty we’ve recruited a more than capable alternative, but we still don’t score enough goals from that position. Ensuring that we sign a goalscorer could really kick us up a notch.
Liam Boyce has been strongly linked throughout the window but he’s headed elsewhere - otherwise, there have been no other concrete rumours. Phil Parkinson poured cold water on suggestions signing a striker is a priority, and hinted that bringing one in depends upon the circumstances of forwards already at the club changing before the deadline.
Jon McLaughlin has played himself back into good form recently after an indifferent start to the season, which has apparently placed him on the radar of Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray. Alan Nixon of the Sun reported last weekend that Mowbray sees McLaughlin as his future number one, and will move for him both in this window and the summer.
McLaughlin’s contract runs out at the end of the season, and just like last year with Josh Maja we could well be tempted to cash in on a key player.
In the event that McLaughlin does leave, we know we have a capable replacement in Lee Burge. Ben Alnwick has spent some time training with Phil Parkinson’s squad at the Academy of Light - there are certainly worse options out there as a number two on a short term deal. Whilst I’d be sad to see McLaughlin leave, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The fact that Ethan Robson hasn’t been placed in any of the matchday squads picked by Phil Parkinson since the academy product came back from his loan at Grimsby certainly suggests that the club are going to look to move him out on loan again.
If Ethan is picked in a matchday squad he then, as per FA rules, cannot go out on loan to anyone other than Ian Holloway’s side. Therefore, it would appear that they’re hoping to find a club for him in a better position than the League Two strugglers before the transfer window closes next Friday night.
Aiden McGeady has played his final game for Sunderland, and is no longer considered part of the first team squad. Sadly, it would appear that his age and wages will have put off a number of clubs from making a move from him, and perhaps we’re now at the stage where we are hoping someone will come in with a late, desperate offer to take him off our hands.
I also wouldn’t rule out Elliot Embleton leaving either. He’s been injured for most of the season and now finds himself further down the pecking order, at a time when he really needs to be playing regularly and getting himself back to full fitness.
With the club seemingly hoping to bring another player in during the window in his position, perhaps allowing Embleton to go out and gain experience elsewhere until the end of the season wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Will Grigg’s ill-fated spell on Wearside appears to be almost over, though the downside is that the only clubs who appear to have been strongly linked with a move for him are Swindon Town, and League Two’s biggest spenders Salford City.
It may well be that Grigg will have to move out on loan until the end of the season, and in all honesty dropping a division to regain his sharpness and confidence in front of goal wouldn’t be the worst decision in the world, even if playing fourth tier football might dent his ego somewhat. He’s simply not equipped to play in the manner that Parkinson requires him to, and I’d argue that he’s bottom of the pecking order when it comes to strikers. He’s been left out of recent matchday squads entirely, and for his own good he needs to go.
Similarly, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Marc McNulty’s loan deal cancelled. Whilst he’s slightly ahead of Grigg in terms of Parkinson’s thinking, he’s been constantly linked with moves to Hibernian and Swindon this month and should we line up a deal for someone like Liam Boyce, he too will not be needed for the final stages of the season.