David Jones: Sunderland could learn from Newcastle, Bournemouth and Southampton's transfer strategy
It’s Sunderland’s final home game against a bottom six side: six teams who look set to to be involved in the fight for survival for the rest of this season.
And with the seven games after Bournemouth’s visit (and before the Derby) coming against teams in the top 11 this is a match Sunderland simply have to win.
It was easy to write off the Cherries at the start of the season as a side that would simply lack the power and class to last the course of their first Premier League campaign.
But they’ve impressed with Eddie Howe’s commitment to fast, fluid football which so far has seen them steer clear of the bottom three.
Their approach to the transfer window has been admirable too; wasting no time to strengthen their attack which was blunted by the long term injuries suffered by Callum Wilson and Max Gradel.
Lewis Grabban and Benik Afobe have set them back over £15m but by acting swiftly and decisively in January, Bournemouth have given themselves a real advantage in key games that could seal their fate.
It always takes time for players to settle into a new club, particularly, as in Afobe’s case, if they are coming from the Championship.
You could argue Afobe cost his new team the points on his debut against West Ham: he squandered two fantastic chances with Bournemouth already in front which might have put the game beyond the Hammers who fought back to win.
But Afobe was up to speed by the time Norwich visited on Saturday: another key game in the battle to avoid the drop.
The former Wolves striker effectively won the game for Bournemouth; he terrified Norwich with his pace and direct running and sealed the win with the third goal to get off the mark for his new club.
We must hope that after the difficult debut suffered by Jan Kirchhoff at White Hart Lane he, like Afobe, will be much better for his first taste of the Premier League.
As painful as it might be the speed and scale of Newcastle’s transfer business has been impressive too.
Jonjo Shelvey might lack the consistency of the very best players in his position, and that’s why a team in the bottom three were able to sign him, but there’s no doubting his quality.
And because he is a tried and tested Premier League performer he was able to make an instant contribution to the cause - again against the Hammers on Saturday.
If reports are to be believed Newcastle have not finished their transfer business there and will apparently continue to target young talented English players.
But at least they won be getting their hands on Charlie Austin - a player I had hoped Sunderland would sign in the summer - who’s been snapped up by Southampton for £4m.
I’m not convinced this is the bargain it’s being presented as: admittedly QPR’s asking price was nearer £15m six months ago but remember also that Austin would have been available for free at the end of the season.
And for that reason the player would have been able to command a hefty basic salary.
The most impressive aspect of the deal was the secrecy with which it was done; the news broke from Southampton only after the player was concluding the final stages of his move which meant no rival clubs had a chance to gazump them.
There were no whispers in the press, no suggestion Austin was even on Southampton’s radar and no talking either from the player or his club who had been briefing he would be staying at Loftus Road for the short term.
It’s the best way to do business for everyone apart from us in the media who love nothing more than a transfer story, and the fans who love to know who wants who and who’s going where.
The Andre Ayew story is a different case: we all know Sunderland have made an approach to Swansea because this fine newspaper is telling us but who’s telling the Echo?
It’s not in Swansea’s interests to leak the story so you have to conclude that either Sunderland or Ayew’s agent are doing the talking; either way the rest of the Premier League will now be aware all may not be well in the Swansea camp.
We seem to hear a lot about who Sunderland may or may not sign and whilst it’s encouraging to know we are actively pursuing potential recruits the best business is always done privately; wouldn’t it be nice if we were pleasantly surprised by a club announcement in the coming days, perhaps after beating Bournemouth.