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Reader’s Corner: “It is good to be enjoying being a Sunderland fan again!”

“There is now a belief that Sunderland is a club on the up, a sentiment which will help attract players who may be sought by rival teams,” writes RR reader Mike Stubbs, who is really optimistic about our future both on and off the pitch.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The end of the transfer window is approaching, and with it, the levels of frustration, anxiety and impatience are increasing amongst the fanbase.

The desire for additional numbers is entirely justified - the injury to Dan Ballard, and the lack of cover for Dennis Cirkin, Corry Evans and the SAS is clear evidence of the work to be done.

In that atmosphere, it is easy to lose sight of the paradigm shift in the recruitment policy at the club. It is almost too painful to remember but it is also a testament that needs to be heard, if only to give some perspective as to where we are now.

Our recent past includes the signings of: Lee Camp, Jason Steele, Remi Matthews, Callum McFadzean, Brendan Galloway, Connor McLaughlin, Declan John, Marc Wilson, Laurens de Bock, Glenn Loovens, Jack Baldwin, George Dobson, Josh Scowen, Danny Graham, Chris Maguire, Danny Graham, James Vaughan, and Will Grigg.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Remi Matthews Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

One or two acquitted themselves reasonably at times, but it is not a list that generates any confidence in the recruitment during that period. I have excluded Defoe on purely sentimental grounds.

Since the beginning of 2021, our recruitment has included: Carl Winchester, Ross Stewart, Harrison Sohna, Corry Evans, Alex Pritchard, Dennis Cirkin, Niall Huggins, Trai Hume, Danny Batth, Patrick Roberts, Callum Doyle, Nathan Broadhead, Jay Matete, Ron-Thorben Hoffmann, Leon Dajaku, Jack Clarke, Daniel Ballard, Aji Alese, Alex Bass, and Ellis Simms.

Not all of these have been unqualified successes. Broadhead and Doyle performed admirably but ultimately went back to their parent clubs, as did Hoffman. He really got this club, had potential and I’m still a little perplexed as to why he isn’t still here. The jury is still out on Dajaku, and injuries have brought Huggins development to a standstill.

On the flip side, Matete and Hume are showing signs that they have what it takes to be Championship players, whilst the ability of Stewart, Evans, Pritchard, Cirkin, Roberts, Batth, Ballard and Clarke to perform at this level is not in doubt.

In addition, our own academy products of Patterson, Gooch, Neil and Embleton are comfortably making the step up. Bailey Wright is an honourable exception to recruitment under the previous regime, who is also proving his worth.

The contrast between where this club was just two years ago, and where it is now, in terms of the playing staff could not be starker. The lower league journeymen have gone. They have not only been replaced by hungry young talent - that is too simplistic.

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

In Wright, Batth, Evans and Gooch, there is a solid core of experienced professionals.

In Pritchard, Roberts and Clarke, there are expensive talents whose stars were falling, astute examples of recruiting, who still have a point to prove.

In Patterson, Bass, Cirkin, Ballard, Alese, Hume, Neil, Matete, Embleton, Sohna (and Huggins), we have a crop of exciting young players, with huge potential, and a manager and coaching team who have shown their ability to bring the best out of promising young talent.

Some may yet outgrow the club, as Henderson and Pickford did. Some will not quite make the grade, but some will become stalwarts of our team for several seasons to come.

Now we’ve signed Jewison Bennette - at 18 already a Costa Rican international - and are apparently in talks with PSG over 19 year old Edouard Michut, whilst we’ve also been linked with Blackburn’s player of last season, Jan Paul Van Hecke, Bournemouth’s Jamal Lowe and Championship stalwart Morgan Fox.

It all feels a world away from sitting in the SOL as Darren Bent scored for Burton to send us down.

There is now a belief that Sunderland is a club on the up, a sentiment that will help attract players who may be sought by rival teams.

Yes, there are those who would like to see the club splashing millions on new signings - that is entirely understandable. But the infrastructure is being put in place that should ensure that a return to the Premiership is possible and achievable, whilst safeguarding the club from the threat of tumbling back to League One.

For the first time in several years, I would be happy if we went into the final weeks of this season with nothing to play for, just a strong season of mid-table consolidation, with no anxious checking of the table through April and May. The play-offs would obviously be a bonus but the club will be in a much stronger position for that next year, when our young players have a season of Championship football under their belts.

It is good to be enjoying being a Sunderland fan again!

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