Tony Mowbray was in stoic form after the loss to Sheffield United, and was quick to point out that the squad he inherited at the start of the season remains a work in progress and will be for some time. The question which he failed to answer was just how much time he thinks the club needs to deliver a team that can win promotion.
While the Blades got their automatic promotion bid back on track, Mowbray said the quality of the squad built at Bramall Lane will take time to replicate at the Stadium of Light.
We’re trying to close that gap but it does take a few transfer windows to do that, and time to polish up Edouard and Abdoullah and Jewison and Isaac.
It has to be pointed out that the Blades were in the Premier League in the 2020/21 season and the spine of their squad were playing top flight football two years ago.
However, Paul Heckingbottom has blended some of those Premier League players with talented youngsters, including two loanees from Manchester City in the shape of Tommy Doyle and James McAtee.
Having been relegated they made last year’s playoffs, but this year they have been in the top two for an extended period, and whilst undergoing a dip in form prior to their visit to Sunderland earlier this week they are still seen as one of the favourites to bounce back to the Premier League this term.
Mowbray said that it was unfair to expect the Likes of Ba, Bennette and Michut to hit the ground running adding they will be better players next season for the experience they have gained in the current campaign.
The issue that Mowbray has is that the pre-season transfer window is likely to throw up some big issues for the club, firstly up front.
While Ross Stewart continues his rehab, with the expectation that he will be fit for pre-season, the issue of a new contract has still to be resolved - and given the way in which the last transfer window left the squad with a single recognised striker, our transfer committee may well have to splash much of the kitty on strikers.
Corry Evans’ influence on the team has been increasingly obvious by his absence and again he has a long term injury which may affect the ability of Mowbray to reshape the squad as he would like.
There is also the decision as to whether the pay the £5 million price agreed with PSG to turn Michut’s loan into a permanent deal. For the fans, it looks like a no-brainer but the club is looking to remain self-sustaining so how much money will be in the transfer pot is anybody’s guess at present.
The club’s transfer strategy around young players is sure to continue but if Mowbray eyes the success of the Blades, their squad contains some talented and experienced players such as Billy Sharp, John Egan, Ollie McBurnie, Oliver Norwood and John Fleck.
You have to wonder whether Mowbray will be talking to Kristjaan Speakman over the need for some experience to blend with the young talent the squad already contains.
It is fair to say that while the success of the current campaign has exceeded the expectations of many given the way the team have played, and Mowbray’s insistence that the playoff were and are not a target this year will not wash come August.
He may believe that it will take a “few” windows but the expectation will surely be that we will have a squad that can compete at the right end of table next season, so a few is very likely to be two.