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Sunderland Unveil New Head Coach Tony Mowbray

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The January transfer window is looming into view and for Sunderland, planning is key

With a chance to strengthen the team for a top-ten push, Kristjaan Speakman and his team must learn from past mistakes and ensure that the next window is successful.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It seems hardly believable that in just over a month’s time the January transfer window will open, and the mad dash as clubs attempt to strengthen their squads will begin in earnest.

For Sunderland, it’s shaping up to be an intriguing time and a window that could go a long way to defining our season.

The Rotherham game - during which Amad, Abdoullah Ba, Jewison Bennette and Edouard Michut were paraded on the Stadium of Light pitch at half time - feels like it could’ve happened last week, but the games have flown by and the winter schedule is almost upon us.

Sunderland v Rotherham - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

As we start to wonder about potential arrivals and departures, it’s safe to say that the January window of 2022 yielded mixed results for us. It also led to a good deal of intense debate about Kristjaan Speakman’s competency - a storm that he ultimately survived.

Tom Flanagan departed when we appeared short of requisite defensive cover, with the likes of Callum Doyle clearly flagging.

In addition, Aiden O’Brien was allowed to leave despite being a reasonably reliable contributor in attack, and the PR-driven decision to bring back Jermain Defoe was a fiasco all around.

On the other hand, it did bring three success stories in the shape of Danny Batth, Patrick Roberts and most notably, Jack Clarke, all of whom have made a big contribution during their time in red and white - the latter subsequently signing permanently in the summer and emerging as arguably our player of the season so far.

Sunderland Unveil New Loan Signing Jack Clarke Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

One point to consider is that we will enter the coming window with different priorities and an entirely different dynamic underpinning any business we might do.

At the turn of the year, with results questionable and Lee Johnson under huge pressure, the desire to strengthen the squad was driven by a ‘promotion at all costs’ mentality - there’s little doubt that Alex Neil, parachuted in as a hired gun to replace Johnson, got the executives off the hook to some degree.

This time, consolidation and stability are the watchwords. It feels like evolution, not revolution, will be the name of the game come January, but the questions are valid and the areas in need of improvement are obvious.

A reliable backup for Anthony Patterson, a workmanlike midfielder who can provide cover for Corry Evans and another striker would seem to be the minimum that the fans expect.

Fundamentally, the core of the playing squad is strong, and radical surgery is not needed. Is a playoff push within our grasp if we play our cards right? Perhaps, but a top ten finish certainly is, and as a foundation on which to build that would be more than satisfactory.

Some fans may judge those in the boardroom by how much money we spend in January, using that as the barometer for ambition and only giving Kyril Louis-Dreyfus their approval if the chequebook was to be opened, but perhaps it’s more about how we invest in the squad, and whether we can do so within the framework of our current structure.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On the other hand, what will Ross Stewart’s future hold?

If a Championship club were to swoop in with a sizeable offer, will we bid farewell to the big Scot? If Stewart did leave, the real acid test would be replacing him.

Whatever the future might hold for our star striker and others, it certainly feels like a safe bet that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes ahead of January.

For too long we went into the window seemingly set to do things on the fly, but after much painstaking work our scouting system is improving and there is a clear focus on the kind of player we’re targeting.

As Jewison Bennette enjoys a World Cup odyssey with Costa Rica, the likes of Speakman and Stuart Harvey ought to be getting everything in order so that when the window opens, we are ready to go about our business as professionally and efficiently as possible.

Do that, and the second half of the season could be very exciting.

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