For Sunderland, the January 2022 transfer window had a very similar feel to the current one.
Whispers and murmurings were as concrete as any incomings got for the first half of the month, before the silence was broken by the addition of a player who seemed to be exactly what was needed to shore up an often-fragile backline.
Danny Batth was second through the door in January, after the signing of Trai Hume from Linfield, but two weeks had gone by since then.
We were in need of a big, strong defender to add some strength and height at the back, and although the former Stoke City man seemed to fit the bill well, it’s fair to say that Batth didn’t necessarily enjoy the best start to his Sunderland career.
His debut went well as he looked composed and assured during the 1-0 win against Portsmouth, but he was then part of a defence that conceded ten goals in three games, including six at Bolton Wanderers.
Subsequently, we wouldn’t see Batth for another nine games.
It wasn’t until a 1-0 win against Gillingham that he returned to the starting line-up, and he stayed there for the majority of the remainder of the season, a run which also saw him score during the 5-1 win against Cambridge United.
He slowly grew into his role at Sunderland, and he came into his own with three superb performances in the playoffs. In a team featuring plenty of young players, his experience kept us on track all the way to a Wembley win.
If Batth caught the eye in League One, his role in our 2022/2023 Championship campaign has been nothing short of exceptional.
He started the season alongside new recruit Dan Ballard and the pair forged a solid partnership during our opening games. However, an injury to Ballard broke up the pairing and for almost the next three months, Batth was the only central defender in the side.
In these games, he did the job expected of him very well, but it felt as though he needed a reliable partner alongside him and only in the defeat to Swansea did we see the Ballard/Batth combination reunited.
Having them both available and playing alongside each other could go a long way to defining how well the rest of the season goes for us.
Come the end of the campaign, it’s likely that the praise and the accolades will go to the players who’ve done the business at the other end of the pitch, but Batth’s performances have shown just how shrewd a move it was to bring him to the club.
In his twelve months on Wearside, he’s established himself as the kind of player who, when available, is the first name on the team sheet.
He’s handled some of the better strikers in this division very well, and like the team as a whole, he’s rarely looked out of place in the second tier.