After Simon Grayson was appointed Sunderland manager in the early summer of 2017, rumours were rife about who would join the new-look Sunderland in their ultimately doomed quest to return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
It seems quite bizarre and outlandish now, but at the time, there seemed to be a general consensus that Sunderland could potentially push for promotion at least. Grayson was an experienced manager at this level and had done a stellar job as manager of Preston North End on a shoestring budget.
And on this day five years ago, widespread reports in the media indicated that Sunderland would imminently purchase a new striker - Bury’s James Vaughan was thought to be close to arriving on Wearside in an £850,000 move.
The striker was in demand that summer after his scoring exploits with Bury the previous season, where scoring 24 goals made him the top scorer in League One. In what appeared to be a theme that summer, it was reported that Grayson was keen to purchase him having managed him previously. The 28-year-old worked with him at Huddersfield Town.
The following day, the signing of Vaughan (along with the signing of Aiden McGeady) was announced by the club. When speaking to SAFC.com, Grayson cited Vaughan’s character and physicality as two of the main reasons for his determination in luring his former player to the club:
James has good experience and he scored a lot of goals last year. He’s a player who will come into the squad and give us something different because I think we were missing a striker with a physical presence – and he certainly brings that attribute.
He’s mobile, he knows where the goal is and he fits in with the ethos that we’re trying to bring to Sunderland.
Unfortunately, Vaughan didn’t appear to know where the goal was during his time at the club, bagging just two goals in matches away to Hull and Burton.
By January of that season, between Vaughan’s lack of goals and his increasingly fractious relationship with some Sunderland fans - along with Grabban’s early departure from the club - we were left short of firepower, and an experienced figurehead up front.
It left new manager Chris Coleman with few options, and with Ellis Short abandoning ship and refusing to invest any money into the squad, our striking options were left looking particularly bleak.
Josh Maja, Joel Asoro and loan signing Ashley Fletcher were left to hold the fort in such acrimonious circumstances, leaving Sunderland bereft of goals, with the fans bewildered and crestfallen as the club slept walked towards League One.