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For Sunderland, patience is the watchword as we target Premier League promotion

There’s been huge progress made at Sunderland in recent times, but our January business was the subject of much discussion. Andy Thompson looks at both sides of the argument

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

As a Sunderland fan, the past month or so has been a bit of a rollercoaster, with plenty of major talking points cropping up since Tony Mowbray was sacked.

From Michael Beale’s appointment to the Newcastle FA Cup tie and the January transfer window, there’s been a lot to digest and decipher.

The Newcastle game was a turning point in terms of how I perceive this group of players. Beforehand, I was maybe slightly too relaxed about their progress to date and how they’d fare against a top-tier team.

After the game, I came to realize that although this was a massive test for our players, they ultimately fell well short.

It seems that the majority of fans, myself included, may have underestimated just how big the gulf between the Premier League and a top-half Championship team really is, and it was a reality check.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

On a recent episode of the Roker Rapport podcast, someone asked whether we needed to go against the model and sign experience in the transfer window to have any chance of success.

The more I’ve thought about this question, the more I thought about what we as fans see as ‘success’.

We live in a world where everything is immediate, and this is especially true when it comes to football, particularly in terms of results and transfers.

As a football club, there’s something to be said for waiting, taking your time, and being financially efficient. It’s easy to suggest that spending more money gets you better players but football is now a very different game to what it was ten or twenty years ago.

Building the foundations of a squad that’s capable of getting promoted and then surviving in the Premier League is a hard thing to accomplish, and it would be extremely costly to do this within a short period of time.

Some fans see success as being immediate but signing ‘experience’, as many fans wanted, comes at a cost. Does spending big equate to better results? Not necessarily.

Preston North End v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images

Getting promoted to the Premier League is everyone’s wish, but we must be realistic and keep the club’s long-term future in mind.

Hull City have just released details of their accounts and the main takeaways are that if they don’t get promoted this season, they face the prospect of their club being run into the ground, because their weekly losses are unsustainable.

They’re a few places above us in the table and have signed some talented players, many of whom are on loan, but they aren’t running away with the league, so has it been worth it?

Possibly in the short term if they get promoted, but chasing losses only leads to one outcome and as Sunderland fans, we’re better placed than many to explain the plight that more than likely awaits them if they fail in their promotion quest.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Too many clubs to mention have ‘gone for it’ and thrown money around in an attempt to get into the Premier League.

Does spending lots of money mean a club is ambitious? I’d argue that it doesn’t. We’re in a day and age where being prudent and having a long-term plan demonstrates far more ambition than the short-termism shown by other clubs.

We must all accept that this squad, in its current state, isn’t at the level it needs to be at to compete in the league above.

We’ve got some serious work to do to reach that standard but I believe the core of the squad has the potential to do so. With some clever business over the next year or two through sales and reinvestment, we could get even closer to that goal.

The long term picture must be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and our task is to build a squad capable of competing in the league above.

We must do this without overspending whilst making money through selling assets and reinvesting in youngsters that we can develop. That would signify success, but this whole process is ultimately going to take time.

Sunderland vs Huddersfield Town Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In 2022/2023, Burnley and Sheffield United were the two best teams in the Championship, but they’re both struggling in the Premier League this season.

On the other hand, Leicester and Southampton may have the quality and consistency to compete in the Premier League, but the other clubs in the mix would lack the quality to survive next season if they were to be promoted.

Nottingham Forest are likely to see a points deduction after allegedly breaching FFP rules, and Everton, who’ve invested in experienced players for years at astronomical prices, are potentially looking at another deduction, too.

Their futures, along with Hull City’s, look bleak. That path has been trodden before and I don’t envy the fate that potentially awaits them and their fans.

Let’s just all take stock and realize where we’re at.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and if we need to wait a few years to build a squad that can compete in the Premier League rather than spending our way out of the Championship, I’m happy to do so.

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