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Summer Scouting: Attempting to work out how Sunderland can strengthen their squad this summer

This summer is sure to be a busy one for Sunderland - Phil Butler takes a look at what we need, and the players who might be suitable when considering ability, budget and key attributes.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Aiden O’Brien Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

With the first two-year cycle of Sunderland’s time in League One coming to an end, and plenty of players leaving the club at the end of their contracts, this summer’s transfer window will see plenty of new faces come through the doors at the Stadium of Light.

With the change in manager from Jack Ross to Phil Parkinson also representing a change of style, the type of players targeted are also likely to be different that those signed in the previous two summers.


As you can see in the image below, even before players start to be sold, and even including youth players, there are a couple of glaring gaps in the squad at centre back and left back.

On top of this, Parkinson has already hinted that goalkeeper Anthony Patterson will be loaned out to give him first team experience, with a similar plan presumable for Brandon Taylor - who at 21 years old is yet to have a loan spell away from the club. Jake Hackett spent part of last season in the seventh tier, so is unlikely to be deemed ready to play a part in a squad looking to gain promotion to the second tier. Jack Diamond has enjoyed a promising loan spell at Harrogate in the National League, but the natural progression for him seems to be a league two loan - perhaps to Grimsby Town where Embleton and Robson have had success over the last couple of years.

Most of the senior players to depart the club have likely done so already at the expiry of their contracts. Jon McLaughlin, Alim Ozturk, Joel Lynch, Jack Baldwin, Tommy Smith, Ethan Robson, Duncan Watmore and Kyle Lafferty all left the club on June 30th. Loanees Declan John and Antoine Semenyo are unlikely to return following a lack of playing time during their half-season loans.

The two main departures are, hopefully, to be those of Will Grigg and Aiden McGeady. Finding a club to purchase either player and cover their wages is likely to be a struggle, but whether they depart on loan or permanently, it is almost certain both have played their last game for the club.

Sunderland’s Current Squad


After the signings of Bailey Wright and Aiden O’Brien, and presuming Benji Kimpioka signing a new contract - something which seems to rely on him being a member of the first team squad - there remains seven spaces to fill in Sunderland’s squad. In fact, right back is the only position where Sunderland don’t need to sign a starter or back up before the beginning of the season - due to Conor McLaughlin’s ability to play as a full back, and Lynden Gooch’s availability as a wing back as well as Luke O’Nien’s ability to play almost every game since he started in that position mid-way through last season.

Sunderland need:

  • Goalkeeper - Replacement for Jon McLaughlin
  • Centre Back - To replace Alim Ozturk
  • Centre Back - To play on the left of a back three
  • Left Back - Better back up for Hume than Declan John offered
  • Central Midfielder - To play alongside Power or Dobson with greater attacking input
  • Attacking Midfielder - Replacement for Antoine Semenyo
  • Striker - Target Man, probably the most important signing this summer

... and all on a shoestring budget.

A small positive, however is that with the departures of Tony Coton and Richard Hill came rumours that Sunderland were looking at a data-driven model of player recruitment, and with Brentford on the cusp of the Premier League using such a model, the proof is there for all to see that, used correctly, hidden gems can be unearthed using a more modern approach to player scouting.

This will allow Sunderland to focus on the attributes which apply to the specific positions they require for football played under Phil Parkinson as manager. With this in mind, I’m going to release a series of articles suggesting players Sunderland could opt to sign, within budget and fitting into the gaps currently left in the squad. To keep it reasonable, all players spent last season at clubs in English tiers 2 to 4 and the top two tiers of Scottish football and a specific focus will be on players available for loan, free transfer or a minimal fee.


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