What a difference a few weeks makes, eh?
Sunderland’s squad looked woefully short of numbers as the start of the season came around, but we kicked off the campaign with three wins, and have subsequently added a number of players to the ranks that are acquisitions clearly made with plenty of thought behind them.
Yesterday evening it was confirmed that Niall Huggins had arrived from Leeds United, signing a four-year deal. The teenage prospect by all accounts cost the club NOTHING in transfer fees - instead, there’s a decent sell-on clause there for Leeds should he end up fulfilling his potential, and moving on to bigger things down the line.
He joins Dennis Cirkin at the club, who arrived under similar circumstances.
To have snaffled two top Premier League prospects for a relative pittance represents good business on the face of it, though the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and quite how good these two lads are won’t be determined for a number of months, I’d assume.
Also joining the club in the last week or so are loanees Nathan Broadhead and Frederik Alves, again, both arriving from Premier League sides.
At 23, Broadhead now needs to find his feet in senior football, and I’m genuinely excited to see what he can do here this season. As evidenced by the footage of the goals he’s scored in the last year or so, he’s a good finisher and has pace, which means he offers our front line something completely different to what we’ve already got.
Alves is clearly a player West Ham have gambled on - £1m isn’t massive money for a top-flight club these days, but any future success he has with The Hammers will depend on how well loan spells away from the club go. He needs to succeed here, which puts Sunderland in a fantastic position, as we could have a motivated lad on our hands with ability that outstrips the level he’s playing at this season.
The other thing about all of these recent signings is that they’re all very versatile.
Huggins made his Leeds debut as a central midfielder, and as a younger man was a left-winger, but was converted into a right-back who can also play left-back... and left wing-back, and right wing-back if his interview with the club website is anything to go by. You can see the merits already with signing a player who is that adaptable.
Alves played holding midfield and right back in Denmark, which indicates to me that he’s very comfortable on the ball, and perhaps quicker than your average League One centre-back.
And then Broadhead, who already played a season at this level two years ago with Burton, mostly as a wide player. He’s converted to a centre forward whilst with the Everton U23s side and has flourished.
You take all of these components and you can start to see why they took so long to recruit - clearly, getting the right types of players from the right clubs and backgrounds, with the right attributes and the right mentality to progress beyond this level was critically important.
So to those who asked all those weeks ago - that’s probably why we weren’t in for Scott Fraser, or Joe Pigott, or Jack Hunt, or Jordan Jones, or Sam Vokes, or whoever else. We simply aren’t shopping in that particular market.
Cannot fault it. We’ve taken our time. People praised Wigan and Ipswich early days but to me all they’ve done is repeat the mistakes we’ve made for three years https://t.co/h7h4819sMR— Roker Report (@RokerReport) August 20, 2021
This plan may work, it may not. But attempting to work this way makes a hell of a lot more sense for our future progression than just signing a team of League One all-stars.
There are still other gaps in the squad that need to be filled - clearly, we are after a better calibre of goalkeeper, we possibly need another left-back (and despite the fact nowt has come of it yet, I still reckon we’ll re-sign Denver Hume), and I wouldn’t say no to another winger that can compete with McGeady, Gooch, and Diamond.
We have ten days left in the window, and we look in great shape.
Our business so far shows that all that was needed was a little bit of patience - and trust me, I totally understand that after four seasons in this godforsaken league, patience is in short supply on Wearside.
But, for once... I feel like they’ve got this.