The biggest topic that seems to be whirling around the heads of the collective Sunderland fanbase right now is regarding the transfer market, and the apparent slowness we’re seeing from the club in bringing new faces on board.
As of writing, the only acquisitions we’ve made are two free agents - Manchester United youngster Jacob Carney, a goalkeeper, and former Norwich playmaker Alex Pritchard.
Pre-season is into its third week, and with the squad looking slim, lots of supporters were hoping that we’d be further along than we are, and that we’d have more in.
Some are worried, and have no faith that those in a position to make a difference are working hard enough or quickly enough.
There is no exact science, though. How Sunderland AFC navigates its way through a transfer window isn’t defined - every year is different, as is every individual club.
So yeah, in an ideal world the club would have at least half of their top targets on board by now, and training with the other players. But the circumstances behind each player and how we go about signing them are of course different.
Take Alex Pritchard, for example. It’s no secret that he’s a good player, and he apparently had a bunch of offers from Championship clubs on the table - Preston being one of them.
If we were really high on Pritchard, we had to ensure we did whatever it took to get him in. I’d imagine we’ve paid him a decent salary by League One standards, and had to give some assurances on playing style. After all, he’s had a torrid time with Huddersfield, and at 28 years old he needs his next move to be a successful one if he’s going to get his faltering career back on track.
Assuming all of the above is correct, getting him in was probably more straightforward than with some other players, ones we’re perhaps targeting that are under contract elsewhere.
There are tonnes of players out of contract and bolstering your squad, if all you want is numbers rather than waiting for the right players to become available, is probably easy enough. Other clubs in our league, like Ipswich and Wigan, have already signed up a boatload of free agents to ensure they have the majority of their business done early.
Consider this, though - what if Sunderland are trying to steer away from diving in headfirst and just signing up a bunch of journeymen free agents?
After all, the promise we’ve been sold by this new regime is that we’ll be more cute and clever when it comes to player recruitment.
People will have seen the Joe Pigott to Ipswich news, and some will perhaps be wondering “why didn’t we sign him then?”. After all, the dirtsheets have been linking him with us.
That doesn’t actually mean we wanted him though. Pigott is a good player for this level, but he’s also 28 in a matter of months and prior to last season, he was a jobbing journeyman who had played most of his football in the lower and non-leagues.
That doesn’t mean he’s not a good player... but can you see my point here? That just isn’t a signing that makes much sense when you consider the wider plan with Dreyfus and Speakman at the helm. People see that he’s a big lad and that he’s scored goals at this level, and assume that he’s a natural replacement for an outgoing player, but must surely also recognise that he’s simply not the type of signing that the new regime are going to make.
I get that people want more evidence and substance before buying in fully to what Speakman and co. are trying to achieve. We all do! But is now really the time to panic about what lies ahead?
The season starts on the 7th of August. That might seem like it’s only just around the corner, but that’s still a decent amount of time down the line. The likelihood is that we’ll have brought in the vast majority of our signings by then, leaving the club with the rest of the month to make whatever tweaks they need to make, and to tighten things up.
Until then, there’s really no point in me getting my knickers in a twist over the way things are rolling. Others are welcome to probe and prod, and panic perhaps, but I’ll personally prefer to wait and see how things play out.
Had we signed 5 or 6 journeymen - and we could have, there are plenty of them about looking for new clubs, after all - people would feel a lot more at ease with how the window was progressing. But, for me, now is the time for quality over quantity. When we are two, three, four months down the line, it will be the quality of our signings that matters, and not how many we managed to bring in four weeks before the season even starts.
And that’s important.
Sadly, and I don’t blame anyone for this, but we’re scarred mentally by the shoddy business done in years gone by, by managers who didn’t have a clue what they were doing.
It may just be blind faith, but I have a lot more hope now that the current bunch are trying to do things the right way, and that their patience will be rewarded by signing the right players as opposed to signing players who are simply easier to attain.