Before the start of the 2013-14 season, Sunderland had gone fully international under the stewardship of the eccentric Paolo Di Canio and his Director of Football, Roberto De Fanti.
Despite constant pleas from Di Canio for the club to bring in some British talent, Di Fanti recruited an abundance of unknown quantities from around the globe.
After his departure, the Italian bemoaned the club’s recruitment strategy - insisting that his choices were not brought into the club, citing Tom Huddlestone as an example of someone he wanted but couldn’t obtain.
I had spoken to Huddlestone and he wanted to come and, before he signed for Hull, there was 45 days where we could have got him.
It appeared the club was refusing to spend big, with English players generally the most expensive on the market. When the January transfer window came around, new Sunderland manager Gus Poyet suffered from the same issues.
Poyet had already recruited defender Marcos Alonso on loan, with Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini also on the brink of signing. He wanted to bring in some British experience to complement the number of foreign players that existed in the squad after the summer transfer window.
Poyet was formerly manager of Brighton & Hove Albion before joining us, and he was keen to bring in their central midfielder Liam Bridcutt. Typically, the transfer was not plain sailing due to the midfielder being British, and his club digging their heels in with the transfer fee.
Poyet expressed his frustration at the lack of value for money in the British transfer market stating that players from the United Kingdom were obnoxiously overvalued, comparing it to other industries where the money is chased despite the performance of the person. He also questioned the mentality of players who would rather sit on the bench for their team.
We had a problem in the summer to buy in England, it’s not easy.
It’s very difficult, I can tell you that. Sometimes there are English players and they’re on the bench at teams and not playing and they should be playing in another team, but because we cannot pay them (enough), there’s no chance of them coming.
There are teams who want too much money, there are teams who have no limit on what they pay, there are clubs with more money and big squads and it’s impossible to get those players.
I wanted to play when I was a player but it’s down to the player’s character, the future they have and what they want.
It appeared that Poyet’s frustration at the delays of the Bridcutt deal were taking it’s toll on the manager. Neat and tidy on the ball, Bridcutt was seen as a perfect player for the way the Uruguayan wanted to play football.
As is typically the case, the transfer went on for another couple of weeks before being completed on the 30th of January - with the midfielder making his debut in Sunderland’s sensational 3-0 win in the Tyne-Wear derby at St James’ Park.