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Huddersfield Town v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship

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Does our latest signing tell us anything about our recruitment strategy?

After confirming the signing of Alex Pritchard, we ask what clues this provides about the new strategy and discuss if this is the type of signing you were expecting under the new structure?

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Gav says...

I’ve done my research with Pritchard and I think that this is exactly the type of signing and risk we need to make.

Set aside the fact he’s been a disappointment at Huddersfield for a minute - he was deemed worthy of an £11m fee just three years ago, and played 30 Premier League games.

That indicates that he’s very talented - certainly, too talented to play in League One.

The fact he’s coming to us though is a clear indicator of how his stock has fallen. He’s had a run of bad injuries and has struggled to hold down a place in a poor team. He needs this move as much as we do.

It’s clichèd to keep referring back to it, but this is a real Moneyball signing in my eyes. The data suggests that with the right management and with the player adjusting his mentality, he is capable of performing well above this level.

Not all ‘Moneyball or ‘data’ signings are going to be young boys. It’s important we don’t sign journeymen I think, but if a special player comes along, and the move seems right, we ought to do it.

Crucially, Pritchard is a number ten who has pace, and likes to shoot from outside the box. We haven’t had a player like that since Stephanè Sessegnon!

The big thing is that we’ve identified that we need more creativity, more pace, more agility and crucially, better players.

Pritchard is an upgrade on players we’ve got and have let go, undoubtedly.

Tottenham Hotspur U21 v Everton U21: Barclays U21 Premier League
Alex Pritchard playing for Tottenham Hotspur U21’s in 2015
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

I haven’t seen a great deal of Pritchard, but a player of his pedigree, with top-flight experience and praise from ex-teammates such as Harry Kane, there is no doubt his signature represents a statement of intent from Sunderland.

I’ve always believed in quality over quantity, and would much rather sign a small number of players who are going to make a real difference, than taking a chance on 10 mediocre journeymen or untested youngsters from other clubs.

Of course, we’re going to need more to replenish a squad bereft of Max Power, Charlie Wyke, and Chris Maguire. But if every signing is measured, carefully considered and brought in as part of a thorough recruitment plan, I’m happy to be patient and let Speakman and co do their jobs.

Norwich City v Brighton & Hove Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Alex Pritchard during his time at Norwich City in 2017
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chris Wynn says...

I didn’t think there would be anything in the rumours when I first read them, though it was probably the work of an agent to drum up interest or just paper talk.

I knew he went for big money only a few years ago and didn’t think he would make the drop down to the third tier, with the expectation he would stay somewhere in the Championship.

It was also the fact that I wasn’t expecting us to necessarily target players who are considered a name and making a drop down. I was expecting more of the Carl Winchester’s of the world who we had identified to play a specific role and the data supported them making a step up to play for Sunderland.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m thinking that this fits a narrative that the club are trying to find value where others maybe aren’t willing to take a risk. With a list of injuries and not much football behind Pritchard over the last three years, it was clear he needed a fresh start and I’d assume he had offers on the table.

For someone of his pedigree, at 28-years-old, on a free transfer, it seems like great business, and it gives me a bit more anticipation to see what other players we might try and tempt from higher up the pyramid who have the potential to walk League One.

Although, whether it’s a poor injury record or whatever it might be, we’re in a position where to get these players we have to accept an element of risk and hope that we calculate it accurately and that it pays off next season.

Huddersfield Town v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship
Alex Pritchard in action for Huddersfield against Wycombe in February 2021
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

Like many Sunderland fans, I don’t know a lot about Pritchard, but what I’ve read about him since the beginning of the rumours is on balance quite positive, and in my view the direction we need to head in.

On the risks, he has had injuries which could return, and from our last campaign with 5 centre backs laid up, we have seen first hand how hard it can be to be consistent with an inconsistent team, and players out of position.

Alongside the injuries, he’s clearly had a bit of a “Will Grigg” in terms of not really settling and succeeding at some of his clubs, while having fans rave about him elsewhere. We cannot have another signing who we want to build the team with and around who doesn’t gel with the team and settle in the region. That issue needs to be part of the past, never to be seen again.

On the plus side however, he has Championship and Premier League experience, and has agreed to come to our club while it languishes in League One to help us succeed. That is someone who recognises the potential he sees, and wants to be part of a journey the coach and football director have clearly painted quite well.

Based on feedback from fans of his former clubs, it sounds like he brings quality on the ball, pace, shooting from distance and attacking creativity, and those are many of the attributes Sunderland fans have been crying for since the days of Sessegnon.

The messages I get from this appointment are pretty clear, if they work out as we hope. We have the systems and data to spot talent that has played above our present level, but like ourselves isn’t playing there right now. We can use that and the stature, facilities and fan base of the club to bring in players who otherwise wouldn’t consider league one clubs. That is a great situation to develop if it is indeed the way we are now set up to potential players. It is in my view how it should have been since we dropped out of the premier league but clearly there were issues preventing us from coming across that way which hopefully we have now erased.

If someone told me a few months ago we would lose all those players including Wyke, in some ways I may have been concerned. Looking at the situation with the addition of Pritchard, I’m already thinking how him, Stewart and Kimpioka offer so much more than Wyke, OBrien and Grigg. Pace, height, creativity, unpredictability. It’s a world from before already, if what I imagine is what emerges.

There is risk in this signing and the approach behind it, but this is a good start, while later than hoped. More of the same please lads, 3-4 more, and I’ll be happy with the direction and the tactics being used to set us up for this season.

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