It’s funny how quickly a narrative can shift in football, isn’t it?
Three weeks ago, as the transfer deadline loomed large, rumours were swirling that half of Sunderland’s squad was supposedly up for sale, other players were dissatisfied with life at the Stadium of Light, and the much-vaunted ‘model’ was in danger of falling to pieces like a sandcastle under a wave.
However, the dreaded fire sale didn’t materialise, the squad wasn’t decimated, and overall, the final hours of the window were largely encouraging- certainly in terms of incomings.
We’ve picked up three successive victories since that crazy day (scoring eleven goals and conceding just two in the process) and on Thursday, we received another piece of excellent news it was announced that Anthony Patterson has signed a new deal at the Stadium of Light.
It’s the latest positive development as the club hierarchy have taken steps to keep the bulk of this highly promising squad together, and it’s also further proof, as if any were actually needed, that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and his people aren’t a bunch of skinflints and that they’re determined to oversee genuine and sustained progress at Sunderland.
The new deal for Patterson is fully deserved. It makes perfect sense from both a football perspective and perhaps just as importantly, a business angle, too.
We’d all like to think that the local lad will be the immovable presence between the sticks as we eventually reclaim a place in the Premier League, but even if that romantic vision doesn’t come to pass, there’s a lot to like about this news.
In the first instance, it shows that the club has the utmost faith in the young stopper to continue to improve and firmly cement his position as our number one for the foreseeable future.
Ever since breaking into the first team, Patterson has seldom failed to impress with his rate of progression, and his development from a promising young talent into an increasingly dominant Championship keeper has been hugely uplifting.
He’s not the finished article yet, but in just about every area he’s now looking like the real deal. In our most recent league game against Blackburn, he commanded pressurised situations well once again to offer further proof of the growing authority he exudes.
On Wednesday night at Ewood Park, he stood tall in the face of some relentless waves of pressure from the home side and made some excellent saves that went a long way towards securing another impressive victory.
Throughout the game, he was aided and abetted by an outstanding performance from Dan Ballard, and the Patterson/Ballard/Luke O’Nien defensive axis is looking ever more reliable, even with plenty of alternative options at our disposal.
Patto’s rise to prominence is a genuine success story for the Academy of Light, and just like Dan Neil, he’s living the dream of every Sunderland fan right now- and making a huge impression in the process.
On the business front, it demonstrates that following the new deals awarded to the likes of Trai Hume, Dennis Cirkin and Ballard during the summer, our assets are being protected, we won’t be selling key players for peanuts, and that Sunderland AFC is no longer the Championship’s resident soft touch when it comes to transfers.
The message that’s being sent to potential suitors by thrashing out new contracts for key players reads thus: ‘Want to get your hands on our most important players? Open the chequebook, pay the market rate, or don't bother wasting our time’.
I’d like to think that such a response was forthcoming when cash-rich Burnley fired in a series of derisory bids for Jack Clarke during the summer (another £10m was added to his value after Wednesday night, by the way) and if any top flight clubs decide to pursue a move for Patterson in the near future, we’ve made it clear that they won’t be signing him for a knockdown price.
It’s objectively true that the time to worry as a football club is when there’s zero interest in your players and you can’t shift the deadwood for love nor money.
For the best part of a decade, that was the swamp in which we were mired but thankfully, those days are long gone, because people really are taking notice of what’s being built on Wearside and the players who are contributing to it.
Balancing sporting success with financial sustainability has been a key component of the plan ever since the current regime arrived.
Every decision made has to be viewed within a wider context, and by ensuring that our number one goalkeeper will remain on Wearside barring a dramatic change in circumstances, it shows that ‘ambition’- such a loaded term- is very much at the forefront of their thinking.