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Summer 2018 reassessed: Looking back at Jack Ross’ Sunderland recruitment drive

Jack Ross’ squad rebuild in 2018 was a huge task, and one that almost payed off as Sunderland narrowly missed out on promotion through the playoffs. How does that window look four years down the line?

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

We are now deep into the fourth summer of transfers in League One, and fans still believe we need to overhaul the playing squad that we saw from the majority of last season.

As a result, I am going to look into the last time we had a major overhaul back in 2018, which also took place under new ownership and new management, and see how they performed on their time on Wearside.

Tom Flanagan

Free - APPS 66 GOALS 3

One of only two still here, Tom Flanagan has never really shone. He has always been seen as a backup and only becomes regular due to injuries.

There really isn’t much to say about Flanagan except it is worrying when he starts. I feel he has been kept on as more of a versatile figure in the defence but never to be the focal point. Therefore he goes slap bang in the middle of the ratings.

Rating 5/10

Chris Maguire

Free - APPS 101 GOALS 22

Having recently moved to Lincoln City, “the King” was regarded as a special player here. He was able to create a spark, thrive under the pressure, and showed what he was capable of at crucial moments throughout each season. A true fan favourite.

Rating 8/10

Jon McLaughlin

Free - APPS 78 GOALS 0

Another top free signing made that summer was the towering presence of Jon McLaughlin. He felt reassuring at the back, especially in his first season, although he seemed to tail off toward the back end of the second season when coming for crosses (or lack of). He will be remembered for keeping us in the Playoff Semi Second Leg against Pompey, and the not given goal against Bradford.

I feel, with a better centre back pairing in front of him, McLaughlin would have kept many more clean sheets for us.

Rating 7/10

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Alim Ozturk

Free - APPS 35 GOALS 0

When Alim arrived at the SOL, all we had seen was his thunderous strike for Hearts from a long, long way out. However, we were not told how much he liked to hold people in the box and take a cheap booking.

I believe Ozturk was a physical presence but very unassured. He needed that leader and talker next to him to basically talk him through his job, something we had not had since Kaboul. Maybe with someone like Bailey Wright he would have done marginally better…but I did not feel he was capable of pushing much further.

Rating 4/10

Reece James

Free - APPS 27 GOALS 0

When we signed James, he was deemed by many to be a backup to not just Bryan Oviedo, who we all thought would leave, but also the rising star of Denver Hume. However, this one is the one we can all say, with hindsight, left too soon with him now plying his trade in the championship with newly-promoted Blackpool.

Rating 5/10

Dylan McGeouch

Free - APPS 30 GOALS 0

Probably the most confusing tenure, McGeouch arrived with a lot of praise and promise. We thought we had beaten top Scottish clubs to land a real coup who we can build around in the centre of the park. This was not to be. Only making 14 starts in the league, McGeouch was deemed as surplus to requirements the following summer and left to return to Scotland with Aberdeen.

Rating 3/10

21/07/18 PRE SEASON FRIENDLY.ST MIRREN V SUNDERLAND.THE SIMPLE DIGITAL ARENA - PAISLEY.Sunderland’s Dylan McGeough in action. Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images

Glenn Loovens

Free - APPS 11 GOALS 0

Arguably the worst signing made that summer. I understand that we were buying an experienced head at the back, but Glenn Loovens was one of the slowest, most mistake-ridden centre backs we have had in recent years, and will forever be known for his red card against Pompey in the league at Christmas that cost us only our second defeat of the 2018-19 season.

Rating 1/10

Jack Baldwin

£200,000 - APPS 34 GOALS 3

Supposedly a solid League One defender when we purchased him, he was another mistake-ridden defender, who is going to be spending his second spell in league Two having left on a free last summer. He never looked comfortable on or off the ball.

Rating 4/10

Charlie Wyke

£900,000 - APPS 94 GOALS 34

Another who has left on a free, Wyke had a seemingly anomalous season having only scored 8 goals in the previous 2 seasons combined. I think we all enjoyed Wykes form after Lee Johnson became the boss but if I was told he would be replaced in any previous window I would have jumped at the chance.

Rating 6/10

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Luke O’Nien

Undisclosed - APPS 110 GOALS 11

The ultimate utility man. Luke is the second, and final player who is still contracted with us, having recently signed a three-year deal. He has divided opinion amongst the fanbase regarding his footballing ability but for me, his ability to be a good, if not an exceptional performer in a variety of positions shows just how driven and determined he is, someone we have always asked for at this club and someone we would have been a lot worse without.

Rating 9/10

Max Power

Loan (Made permanent in January) - APPS 108 GOALS 11

A player who shone upon joining (originally on loan), only to look less committed following 2 red cards in quick succession early in his opening season. Power was a solid League One Central Midfielder who was one of a few who could thrive under the pressure, but his ability was left wanting when we needed him in the final third.

In his final year, he was made captain and was one of a few that could always be relied upon to stay fit and keep the team moving.

He was a good signing. He never really stood out but led well and kept us going.

Rating 7/10

Jerome Sinclair

Loan - APPS 13 GOALS 1

A loan that did not work out. 7 Starts to which his loan ended in January. He looked like a lost puppy and a headless chicken all rolled into one. He just was not good enough. We did not see much of him and from what we did see it was a transfer that was wasted.

Rating 2/10

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


All in all, it was a poor crop of players with the minority (four out of 12) getting a 7 or above. I believe you need at least three quarters of your incoming to be players you can trust and work with within your first team for a window to be considered a success.

Two of the 12 players are still here, and three left only this summer, meaning just under half lasted three years at the club, and we did not receive a single fee for any one of them. With 11 of the 12 being permanent signings, this shows the quick turnover and lack of belief held in this crop of players.

All of the permanent transfers were made between July 1st and August 1st, meaning that in the first half of the window our business was all but done. I think we can all see that getting your business done early with a mass of “good for this league” players is not always the best way.

You can take your time and find the best players to fit into your squad and your tactics. Just because it hasn’t been finished and looks to be dragging does not mean it is wrong, it just means they want to get it right.


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