After being blindsided by Everton earlier in the month when they decided to recall Ellis Simms from his loan spell so that he could warm their bench, Sunderland fans have anxiously waited for some positive news on the striker front for a number of weeks.
That wait is finally over, with the arrival of highly-rated Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt, who joins the club on a loan until the end of the season.
The 20-year-old Scouser was sought after by a number of Championship clubs, and with good reason, having progressed quickly as a player over recent years.
He made his first team debut for Wigan as a 16 year old before moving to Elland Road, where he’s largely featured as a substitute or from the sidelines - initially under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa, and then under the wing of Jesse Marsch this season where he has made 15 appearances in the Premier League.
The logical next step in his progression is to get some first team football at a good standard, and that’s why he’s at Sunderland.
He had been expected earlier in the window to return to Wigan Athletic, but the situation on and off the pitch there isn’t great and with better offers on the table, it was decided that he’d come to a side fighting for a spot in the playoffs, who have a reputation now in the game for playing good football and giving young players a chance to grow.
Speaking to SAFC.com, Gelhardt said:
I know how big the Club is and I’m really looking forward to meeting the lads and trying to help.
I spoke with the Head Coach and the playing style seemed a perfect fit for me.
I’ve watched Sunderland on the TV this season and seen some positive, attacking football and I can’t wait to get involved.
Tony Mowbray added:
It is no secret that Joe had plenty of options on the table this month, so it is a testament to the Club and its staff that he felt Sunderland was the best move for him.
He has made an impact at Premier League level throughout the past 18 months and he is a really exciting signing, who fits our playing style and will complement a forward line that is already packed with talent.
I’m sure the fans can’t wait to see him in action and we are looking forward to supporting his development.
This is a huge tick in the box for where we find ourselves as a club at the minute, and a massive step in the right direction for the squad and Tony Mowbray.
Whilst I’d have loved for us to bring Ellis Simms back, the situation at Everton isn’t clear and we can’t hang around when there are other options available to us - and in Gelhardt we’ve signed a player who has made waves in the league above, nevermind this one, so you’d expect that he’s going to score goals for us and add to what is already an epic attacking line.
What we needed to bring in was a player who can complement what we’ve already got, and Gelhardt fits the bill as he’s not just capable of playing as an out-and-out striker, but also in a front two or out wide. I guess in a lot of ways his role in our squad is similar to the one that Nathan Broadhead played last season for us in League One.
What we didn’t want was to be going into the final day of the window still scrambling around to make deals, and with not only this signing but the acquisitions of Ekwah and Lihadji we can afford to breathe a little bit, and take our time over some of the other positions that we’re likely looking to fill.
Gelhardt just seems like a sure-thing - I can’t see him being anything other than a success here, and this type of signing is a show to the rest of the teams in this division that we mean business and are taking a push for the playoffs very seriously.
Welcome to Sunderland, Joe - you’re going to love it.