Phil Smith: Weak Sunderland can only look on enviously as Allardyce splashes the cash at relegation rivals Palace

Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce (left) with assistant Sammy Lee before the Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date Tuesday January 31, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Bournemouth. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce (left) with assistant Sammy Lee before the Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date Tuesday January 31, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Bournemouth. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
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There has been a GIF circulating around the internet of Big Sam’s celebratory dance after Crystal Palace took a 2-0 lead at Bournemouth.

It is not quite as flamboyant as his ‘Hulk’ moment at the Stadium of Light, this time merely a pout and jig on the touchline.

No wonder he was pleased.

Not only had he just lifted his side clear of Sunderland and Hull at the bottom, he had managed to get his superiors to sanction an extraordinary transfer splurge.

It’s worth taking a moment just to let it sink in.

£14million on a left-back Sunderland fans know to have defensive deficiences, £12.5million on a left winger who has never nailed down a spot in a Premier League team and a Serbian midfielder with no Premier League experience.

Then there is Mamadou Sakho, for whom he has paid £2million to take on loan for half a season. Paying his £100,000-plus weekly wages, that it is a deal that will probably cost the Eagles close to £5million.

No other side in the major European leagues has spent so much in the winter window.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Allardyce has had a turbulent 12 months – three jobs, one of which was his lifelong dream. Yet here he is at the end of it all, just how he started – a last-minute trolley dash to try to save a club from relegation.

Again, Sunderland’s fate hangs on the success of those deals.

For it is difficult to see how the Black Cats can survive if they don’t finish above Crystal Palace.

Given the strength of the Eagles’ business, and don’t forget their £50million-plus spend in the summer, that looks a tall order.

Sakho is, on his day, a Champions League defender, an absurd talent to be plying his trade in the bottom three of the Premier League. Trustworthy judges say Luka Milivojevic will add tenacity and bite to the midfield, while Allardyce has the potential to get the best of van Aanholt. Jeff Schlupp may not be a particularly consistent player but still brings a speed and direct instinct that will work well in his new manager’s counter-attacking style.

If he can coax improvements out of the squad already in place, the likes of Christian Benteke and James Tomkins spring immediately to mind, then it is easy to see them going on a run in the latter stages of the season when mid-table teams take their foot off the pedal.

Elsewhere, the Black Cats will struggle to overhaul any of the other sides sinking down the table.

Swansea City have, in many ways, followed the Sunderland formula to initiate something of a surge.

A new manager has improved discipline and organisation, and also overseen a massive surge in work-rate and distance covered during games. That has allowed their key players, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente, to settle tight contests.

Will it be enough for a long-term uplift, or will players regress to their previous levels after the initial bounce, as has happened so often at Sunderland?

That remains to be seen, but in the short-term it is likely to be enough to keep them up.

Sunderland last month made a conscious decision to try to break that cycle.

Of course, they would have shelled out a significant sum on Leonardo Ulloa, had Leicester been willing to sell. On the whole, however, they have neither thrown money at the transfer market nor decided to make a change in the dug-out.

There are many reasons for that.

One is quite simply economics.

Years of following that approach have pushed the club to the brink financially, making losses on short-term signings and constantly having to pay-off a manager and his backroom team. The debt has been spiralling for too long and is the key reason why FFP is such a major concern when compared to other Premier League clubs.

Sunderland’s revenue, mainly due to such a vast fanbase, compares well to their bottom-half counterparts, but their inability to build a positive long-term recruitment strategy is biting hard.

The lack of stability has seen players given new contracts then fallen out of favour under new bosses, and players signed to fit in with a new manager’s phiosophy who promptly become redundant.

Wahbi Khazri is perhaps the most expensive recent example of that.

At some point, a line in the sand had to be drawn, It has taken the arrival of Martin Bain (and perhaps, too, Ellis Short finally becoming weary of expensive failure) to decide that now is the time.

The bottom line is that Sunderland have been left in the weakest shape for years at this point in the season, far from adrift but struggling with an imbalanced and underperforming squad.

Many Black Cats fans will be looking at the renewed optimism, excitement and fervour at Selhurst Park with envy. Allardyce has a remarkable ability to convince people to back him financially, to make boards and players and fans believe that if they bend to his will, eventually he will lift them away from the bottom three.

Where Palace fans will be looking to the rest of the season with positivity, on Wearside it is a sense of weariness and perhaps no little dread.

Sunderland, though, have had too many trolley dashes, and Big Sam’s approach is expensive and invariably short-termist.

Now the key is whether plans are in place, whichever league Sunderland find themselves in, to make sensible and measured changes to the squad this summer.

If so, the vigour that Allardyce brought to Wearside could return again.

Yet it is difficult not to feel that the journey to that point could be painful. Sunderland’s greatest hope may be that the sale of van Aanholt and the sense of adversity leads to something of a siege mentality and real togetherness in the dressing room.

Manage that and David Moyes will have brought something far more valuable than the contents of a Deadline Day trolley.