The 2021 January transfer window is now open, with Sunderland desperate to recruit new faces than can help steer the squad back towards our target of promotion. The squad is void of pace and power, but with strict EFL guidelines in place with the wage cap rules, Sunderland will need to ensure players exit as well as enter.
21-year-old central defender Morgan Feeney has already departed following the expiration of his contract, however the main problem for Sunderland will be shifting players in contract who are on higher wages. Consequently, the best method to do this is likely to be loan deals until the season concludes.
Below are the three players I believe could most benefit from a loan spell away from the Stadium of Light for the rest of the season.
The 23-year-old’s season begun with a reckless red card against Bristol Rovers on the opening day of the season and it seems his confidence has been shot ever since.
Dobson has barely featured in the league for Sunderland this season, but when he has, they have been performances to forget.
He was poor in a 2-2 away draw against Rochdale, poor again in a shocking 1-0 FA Cup defeat against Mansfield, then he was removed at half-time in a recent draw with Wimbledon - it simply has not been good enough this season.
The signing of a young up and coming EFL midfielder was something many Sunderland fans credited the club for, a player who could grow and develop with the club moving through the leagues, but in truth he seems to have regressed this season.
Last season under Phil Parkinson, Dobson was practically ever-present alongside Max Power in a 5-2-2-1 system.
Whenever he was fit he started and was rarely taken off, fans will remember Josh Scowen barely kicked a ball before the season was curtailed.
As he is under contract until 2022, a loan move would be beneficial for both parties as Dobson could obtain first-team football which may bring his confidence back.
I do not think Sunderland fans should write him off just yet, as we have seen with two current starters in Grant Leadbitter and Conor McLaughlin that players can turn their poor form around.
Should Sunderland wish to cash in, Dobson playing regular football would help develop interest and increase his value, or alternatively if he plays well Lee Johnson may wish to hand him another chance in pre-season.
Either way, it would be silly to let him rot away not playing and it would be best for both parties if Dobson joined another League One team to play regular first-team football.
Secondly, we have a player who is another example of the potential of Sunderland’s academy and someone who is ready to play regular first-team football in Anthony Patterson.
The 20-year-old has now played twice in the EFL Trophy this season against Fleetwood and Oldham, as well as regularly impressing for our Under-23 side.
He made brilliant save to deny Davis Keillor-Dunn in the second half against Oldham, but when Lee Burge and Remi Matthews are both fit he is unlikely to see any first-team action in League One.
Although he is first choice for our reserves, Patterson would benefit from experience of playing regular senior football, similarly to Jordan Pickford who had six different loan spells before he made his Sunderland debut.
Last month he was linked with Scottish Premier League side Hamilton, which would be an excellent test of his ability and would see him experience facing European level sides, such as Rangers and Celtic.
With both Burge’s and Matthews’ contracts expiring at the end of the season, it is unclear how Sunderland’s future goalkeeping scenario looks, but a successful loan spell away from Sunderland could really enhance Patterson’s chances of one day becoming number one on Wearside.
Lastly, we have a striker Phil Parkinson was determined to sign, despite his torrid first tenure with the club, who has once again went on a baron run without scoring a league goal for Sunderland.
Admittedly, Graham is not the only culprit as Will Grigg and Aiden O’Brien have missed just as many sitters this year. But it really does make you angry as to why our recruitment team thought signing a slow 35-year-old, with previous poor history with the club, was a brilliant idea?
Graham second spell got of to a promising start when he tapped home against Villa’s youth squad in the EFL Trophy, but despite showing signs of good hold up play and movement in the box, he simply has not scored goals.
Memories of easy missed chances against Charlton away and Mansfield at home remain stuck in my mind, Sunderland just cannot continue to stick with forwards who do not deliver goals.
Sunderland would be better suited trying to find a forward who offers something different to Charlie Wyke, a player who can play off the shoulder in behind or beat players one-vs-one, adding the pace and power we are missing.
Due to his contract being the shortest of the underperforming trio (Grigg and O’Brien included), combined with his age, it is likely Graham will be the first to leave and I am led to believe both he and Dobson have been told they can depart the club this month.
O’Brien is six months into a two-year deal, plus Grigg could potentially be facing a long-term spell on the side lines with a knee injury, so it makes sense that Graham would be the one chosen to leave.
A potential sticking point will be Graham’s wages, since he joined from Blackburn in the Championship you can imagine many other League One clubs will not want to pay 100% of the fee.
Should he depart, he would of scored just two goals in 58 games in all competitions for Sunderland, you simply cannot argue against that.