The first deal is almost complete, the first new arrival has been announced, and now it finally feels as though the countdown to the 2023/2024 season has begun in earnest.
On Thursday morning, Sunderland confirmed the imminent arrival of Australian youth international Nectarios Triantis, who’ll join us from A-League side Central Coast Mariners, pending international clearance.
The deal had been mooted for ten days but now that it’s finally been made official, the first step of fine tuning the squad and adding quality in key areas ahead of next season has been taken.
At first glance, and judging by some of the fulsome appraisals that have come from Australian-based observers, Triantis seems to tick a lot of boxes, not least because at twenty years old, he’s a young and developing footballer, and with some international pedigree to his name, he’s clearly very well thought of in his homeland.
He looks to be a physically imposing and composed defender who’s comfortable on the ball and equally adept in the air, and after wrapping up his time with the Mariners with a victory in the final game of the season, he’ll head to the northern hemisphere and his new home in good spirits and ready for the challenge ahead.
As we often saw last season, and certainly against Luton in the playoffs, height in defence was a major issue and when our backline was decimated by injuries to Dan Ballard and Danny Batth- two towering and commanding figures- it left a weakness that was always likely to be exposed at at some stage.
That isn't to downplay the efforts of those who filled in when those lads were absent, because they did a sterling job, but clearly it needed to be addressed, and it has been.
Ball-playing central defenders have been in vogue for a long time, and although Triantis looks to have that base covered, it would be great to think that he can also add some genuine bite and edge to our defence.
The likes of Batth take immense pride in the art of defending and if our new Australian recruit can learn from the ex-Stoke defender and get himself attuned to the nuances and characteristics of this league, he won’t go wrong.
The arrival of Triantis will doubtless throw up an interesting selection question as we gear up for the new campaign, and he’ll certainly need a little bit of time to settle in, but he’s joining a group of players whose confidence is high and whose collective mindset is geared towards constant improvement.
Will he slot straight into the team or will he have to bide his time and take his opportunities when they come, especially if Tony Mowbray still sees the Batth/Ballard axis as his first choice pairing?
Either way, it gives us some much needed depth after being barely able to field a defence at the end of last season. Also, with Aji Alese on the comeback trail, our options will be extremely reassuring once we get a clean bill of health and every player is match fit.
Naysayers might claim that the gulf in class from the A-League to the Championship is worryingly wide and that Triantis might struggle to adapt, but on the other hand, the fact that we’re now casting the net even further and wider shows that Sunderland AFC is a genuinely forward-thinking club.
With time, the backing of Mowbray and the exceptional coaching that’s one of our hallmarks these days, there’s no reason why Triantis can’t make the transition and become a key player at the Stadium of Light.
Australia is well known for its opal and gold mines, and unearthing hidden gems is very much part of Sunderland’s approach in the transfer market nowadays. With that in mind, it’s a fabulous opportunity for Triantis to head north, embrace the challenge in red and white, and possibly become another fan favourite into the bargain.
Welcome to Wearside, Nectarios!