Limited January ambitions causes no panic as Sunderland finally approach a window from a position of strength

Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven have underlined their commitment to transparency in the last week, marking six months in charge of the club by meeting the fans and media to discuss their progress so far.

Wednesday, 31st October 2018, 11:00 am
Charlie Methven and Stewart Donald.

A myriad of issues were discussed in extensive detail but as the nights draw in, it was inevitable that thoughts would turn to the January window.

The picture painted was one of gradual improvement, rather than significant overhaul.

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Methven was clear that Sunderland would need to bring their wage bill down before they could consider adding more bodies.

Donald underlined that need but did say that he felt he would be able to deliver what Jack Ross was looking for.

The end result is likely to be ‘tweaks’ to the squad.

Heavy investment is not on the agenda.

In previous windows, such a message may well have led to a certain degree of panic.

Last year, January was seen as the last opportunity to save a sinking season.

The year before, Martin Bain signalled Sunderland’s imminent decline by admitting in December that funds would be ‘very limited’.

It is a mark of Sunderland’s progress that a quiet January will ruffle few feathers.

Most Sunderland supporters appreciate that the club is spending a hitherto unprecedented amount on wages for a League One club.

Some level of scaling back is close to inevitable and few would quibble with the new regime’s goal to make the club financially sustainable again.

In spelling out the club’s financial challenges with regards to league rules, they have also helped supporters to understand exactly what the club can and cannot do.

It is a major step forward at a club that not so long was drifting without any discernible sense of direction.

A second element to the relative calm is that the squad built by Jack Ross is increasingly looking capable of challenging at the top end of the table without major additions.

Could it be strengthened?

Without a doubt.

Perhaps a touch more game-changing pace would be welcomed, and perhaps a touch more height would make a difference.

Even then, the return of Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore will help to solve those issues.

Stewart Donald said that Ross has identified ‘one or two areas’ where he feels he could improve the squad, but it is clear that the manager has no intention of pushing for wholesale changes.

The key, then, is not so much making major additions to the current squad but ensuring any additional gaps that develop are plugged.

The third element is that increasingly, keeping some players who once may have been deemed necessary sacrifices is beginning to look prudent.

Lee Cattermole has been nothing short of exceptional and while not yet at full tilt, Aiden McGeady is beginning to make some good contributions.

As Donald himself has alluded to, should Sunderland get promoted then those wages will not seem so difficult and they will also be players ready made to compete at that level.

The key thing is that ahead of a notoriously difficult time to do business, Sunderland are well placed.

New additions would be welcome but are not absolutely essential.

Exits would be a shame but not ruinious.

It has been a long, long time since Sunderland have entered a window from a position of strength.

So in the grand scheme of things, a quiet month would be a sign of progress in itself.