For anyone like myself who are old enough to remember playing Championship Manager 2001/02, may remember some annoying messages that came through as you would be building your squad during the first summer of the game, regarding changes to how players could be transferred between clubs.
Football had always sat outside the usual laws that governed employment contracts and how people could change their employer, and following the infamous Bosman ruling in 1995, it was always on the cards that a more fundamental change was coming.
The Bosman ruling was a huge change in the freedom it provided to players who were out of contract with their current employers, once again, for those of you as old as me, may remember the old tribunal system - our highest profile transfer using that system was Paul Bracewell moving up the road in 1992.
After the ruling in 1995, the European Commission wanted more changes to the transfer system across the board, and around the turn of the century a compromise was reached. This resulted in what we see now with the two-window setup.
Where before transfers could not be made between the 31st March and 1st June, the changes meant originally that a summer window opened the 9th June and closed in September, and a winter window opened throughout January. From 2018, the summer window has closed on the Thursday before a ball is kicked - incoming to the top flight at least.
So, the 2002-03 season was the first to enforce the new transfer windows, and looking back it appeared to catch Peter Reid off-guard as we splashed out on Marcus Stewart and Tore Andre Flo in the first summer transfer window. By the time the first January window came around Howard Wilkinson was in full-flow at the Stadium of Light - only Mart Poom and Talal El Karkouri, who joined on loan from PSG, signed in an effort to avoid the drop. Safe to say it didn’t work.
The first memorable and effective winter transfer window came in January 2007, when Roy Keane was given the licence to splash the cash in our bid to propel our mid-table position into promotion contenders.
Keane made the call to Sir Alex Ferguson to bring Jonny Evans in on-loan from Manchester United, Carlos Edwards was signed from Luton Town for around £1.5million, Anthony Stokes cost around £2million to sign from Arsenal and towards the end of the month, Stern John signed on the dotted line from Coventry City. Best part of £4million is a small price to pay to win the title.
In Keane’s first crack at the Premier League as a manager, we were occupying a relegation spot as January began, but once again Jonny Evans calmed the ship on his arrival on-loan from Old Trafford. Phil Bardsley was also signed from Manchester United for around £2million and to help on the assist front, around £4million was parted with to bring in Andy Reid from Charlton, and all three signings contributed to dragging us up to a 15th place finish.
Roy Keane left the club ahead of the following winter window, in which Ricky Sbragia signed Calum Davenport and Tal Ben Haim on loan, and 12 months later Steve Bruce’s first January was an interesting one for Sunderland fans.
The former Manchester United defender boosted the ranks with Matt Kilgallon from Sheffield United for an undisclosed fee, Spurs full-back Alan Hutton on loan and in an effort to score a few goals, Benjani came in on loan from Manchester City.
The following January was a little more tricky for Steve Bruce to navigate in the market. There were two sagas from the window in 2011. First of all, the transfer request from Darren Bent resulted in us recouping around £24million from Aston Villa, but in doing so left a vacancy to partner Asamoah Gyan in attack, which resulted in our second saga of January 2011 - Stephane Sessegnon.
PSG couldn’t make their minds up if he was actually for sale for most of the month, but we managed to seal the deal for something in the region of £5.25million - a bargain. The only other signature of that month was Sulley Muntari, which we all excited about, especially with the prospect of a £6million move if things went well.
The following year, the revolving door began to gather momentum on the management front when Steve Bruce made way for Martin O’Neill and having only taken the reigns in December was maybe unprepared for his first window.
On this day ten years ago, it was expected that Kevin Davies would travel north to sign on at the Stadium of Light, but it wasn’t to be. Our deadline day signings that O’Neill managed to snag were 33-year-old Sotirios Kyrgiakos on loan from VFL Wolfsburg and 31-year-old Wayne Bridge on loan from Manchester City.
After a year into the job, I’d expected Martin O’Neill’s second winter transfer window to be a little more ambitious, especially as the middle of January saw us move up to the dizzy heights of 11th in the Premier League. But on this day in 2013, we got it horribly wrong, and arguably never recovered. Nine years ago today, Martin O’Neill brought Danny Graham to Sunderland from Swansea City in a deal worth £5million.
A year later, it was Gustavo Poyet navigating the murky waters of the winter transfer window as Sunderland manager and more reasons than just Gus himself, it had a South American flavour to it. Defender Santiago Vergini came in from Argentinian club Estudiantes, initially on loan, and Argentinian-born Ignacio Scocco arrived at Costa Del Roker from Brazilian club Internacional for around £3million.
Deadline day was busy, and the main rumour was that our midfield could be weakened with reports throughout the day suggesting that Lee Cattermole and Craig Gardner could leave the club. But as these days usually go, on this day eight years ago neither left, and we added 24-year-old Liam Bridcutt from Poyet’s previous club Brighton for around £3million.
January 2015 saw possibly the highest profile deal when Jozy Altidore was incredibly swapped for Toronto’s Jermain Defoe, but deadline day saw no business concluded whatsoever.
It was much the same under Sam Allardyce where the only deal on deadline day was the bizarre loan that took Steven Fletcher to Marseille on loan for the rest of the season. But it was maybe inevitable after a month where Ellis Short had his last blow-out by providing the funds to Sam Allardyce to add Lamine Kone from FC Lorient for £5million, Wahbi Khazri from Bordeaux for £9million and a Big-Sam bargain in the form of Jan Kirchhoff from Bayern Munich for £750,000.
Deadline day the following season under David Moyes was quiet, which can be explained away by confirming a combined fee of £7.5million with Everton for Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson. Moving swiftly on... in 2018 we all saw behind the scenes footage on Netflix of Chris Coleman’s Janaury transfer deadline day with Jake Clarke-Salter, Kazenga LuaLua, Ovie Ejaria, Ashley Fletcher, and Lee Camp all signing up and Jack Rodwell not going away.
Netflix once again captured all the fun 12 months later after Josh Maja left the club and we placed a bid for every striker in the Football League - and got Will Grigg. Some were happy at the time, but the fire was extinguished fairly quickly.
The pre-pandemic January deadline day of 2020 saw Phil Parkinson bag Antoine Semenyo and Declan John, but COVID-19 was just around the corner to curtail the season and prolong the Parkinson-era. And last year was a strange one with a change of manager in December followed by a change of ownership in January that saw Carl Winchester and Ross Stewart sign permanently and Jake Vokins and Jordan Jones on loan. Good signings on paper but not quite enough to see us get over the line in the play-offs.
Looking back through the years, other than a couple of stand-out successes, our record in January isn’t great, let’s hope we got it right this month and see what today brings.