Sunderland legend Micky Gray has hit out at the club’s transfer policy over the past 10 years - criticising the Black Cats for ‘signing has-beens’.
It comes as 34-year-old free agent Joleon Lescott became the first January signing, arriving on a deal until the end of the season.
Lescott’s stint at AEK Athens was cut short by injury earlier this season but was keen to be reunited with former Everton boss David Moyes at Sunderland.
Gray has nothing against Lescott but believes Sunderland should set their sights higher.
“I do question what the managers have actually brought in,” said Gray.
“Over the last ten years, maybe even more than that, you could probably count on one hand the number of Sunderland signings where you’ve thought: ‘what a great buy’.
“I hate to say this phrase, but we’ve actually signed has-beens.
“I’ve got nothing against Joleon Lescott, he’s a nice guy. He’s 34 years old, it didn’t happen for him at Aston Villa or out in Greece, and he’s been given a great opportunity until the end of the season to help Sunderland in this relegation fight,
“But we shouldn’t be looking at players like that.
“You go further up the road at Middlesbrough – they’re bringing through young, fresh, talented players and brought other players like Alvaro Negredo in.
“I suppose Darren Bent was maybe one of the last signings who actually worked for Sunderland, and Jermain Defoe as well.
“But apart from that, it seems like we’re just keeping our fingers crossed, and bringing in certain players and thinking: ‘I hope this works’,” Gray told talkSPORT.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short has pumped more than £200million in and continues to bankroll the Black Cats.
But if an offer in line with his valuation of the club is forthcoming - understood to be around £170million - then the American billionaire will consider it, if it was in the best interests of Sunderland.
Gray, who was relegated with Sunderland in 2003, added: “We need someone to come into that football club who has Sunderland at their heart and are passionate about where they want the club to be and they have a realism to think: ‘OK, if I buy the club now we are going to get relegated’, and don’t then jump ship.
“Try and get us back to where we belong, which is the Premier League.”