I don’t think anyone can argue that Sunderland have been anything other than impressive over recent weeks when it comes to shaping up our squad during the off-season.
Not only have we nailed down some promising young players to stronger contracts, but we’ve brought in three more bodies that give us the height and athleticism that was missing at times during the run towards the end of last season.
Dennis Cirkin and Trai Hume have earned their new contracts and in signing them have further cemented the belief that Sunderland is THE club to be at for young players, whilst the signing of Jobe Bellingham in particular is a statement to other young players, their families and their agents that this is a project worth being a part of.
The transfer of Jenson Seelt from PSV has got my tastebuds watering - he’s been linked with a move to Arsenal recently, and apparently turned down a move to the Premier League with Burnley in favour of coming to us, which is intriguing. Standing at 6ft4, he’ll add some much-needed height to our defensive options and coming from the Dutch academy system you’d expect that he can play a bit.
And having heard from Nectarios Triantis and Hemir in recent days, it’s clear that Sunderland’s belief in young players is filtering through when talking to these lads and trying to convince them to up sticks from the other side of the world to come and play for the biggest club in the Championship.
We haven’t lost a great deal in terms of bodies, either. The only senior player to leave following the expiration of their contract this summer was Carl Winchester, and he wasn’t even part of last season’s squad due to his loan at Shrewsbury. In terms of loanees, Amad Diallo, Edouard Michut and Joe Gelhardt returned to their parent clubs, though you could argue that the only one whose lack of presence will be felt is Amad’s.
There are no glaring holes in Tony Mowbray’s squad - in fact, it looks now like we’ve got two players for every position, and with a raft of bodies returning from injury plus the emergence of even more talented youngsters from the academy system, our side is going to look and feel completely different to the one that was left battered and bruised following the end of last season and our run to the Championship play-offs.
It’s all impressive stuff that gives us a huge leg-up going into pre-season when training starts on Monday, leaving Sunderland in a strong position when it comes to recruitment.
We don’t need to rush. We don’t need to sign players for the sake of it.
I imagine that Kristjaan Speakman, Stewart Harvey and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus have their top targets firmly in sight, and having brought in three of those players already gives us tremendous leverage in the transfer market.
We can now afford to relax a little and wait for the deals we have in the pipeline to work themselves out. I’m not suggesting that we can take our eye off the ball for a second, but we’re not in the same position that a lot of Championship clubs are, scrambling around to fill out their squads with uninspiring free agents whilst the vultures pick off their top talents.
There are ten weeks left before the transfer window closes on September 1st.
Much can happen between now and then, and I have no doubt that injuries will occur and that we’ll have clubs sniffing around some of our best players, but we aren’t desperate, and that’s important.
We can afford to wait. We can be patient as the clubs higher up the food chain get their own houses in order, meaning that the best young talent will be freed up to leave on permanent deals and loans towards the back end of August once pre-season is out of the way.
Take Amad, for example.
Last summer he was part of the Manchester United squad that played a pre-season tour in Australia, but it was never likely that he was going to be needed for the league campaign. In pre-season, especially after an international break, top sides rotate their squads more and need to cover for the absence of their top internationals, meaning that even players who have no realistic future with them have a part to play in making up the numbers.
That remains the case this summer. The final international friendlies only finished up a few days ago and there will be players who are weeks behind some of their teammates, meaning that when the Premier League clubs jet off around the world for their various pre-season tours that the spare bodies will be needed.
But because we aren’t desperate, that’s absolutely fine. We can wait.
So whilst it may feel boring not having much to talk about when it comes to transfers, I think we may just have to get our heads around it and used to the idea that we’re entering a quiet period where the club will take their time to ensure we get the right players on deals that suit us, rather than the other way around - which has been the case many times in the past.
We’re in unfamiliar territory, and whilst I understand that can be scary for some fans, I’m relishing it. For the first time in as long as I can remember it feels like Sunderland are going into a pre-season with no worries in terms of the shape of the playing squad, and that can only be a good thing - particularly when it feels like we’re building towards what could be a really successful season for the football club.