What to expect from Sunderland in the closing days of the transfer window
Deadline day approaches and for the first time in quite a while, Sunderland are not in need of a miracle.
The Black Cats added three loanees in the dying embers of last January to try and salvage their season, with Simon Grayson ushering a similar number through the door this time last year.
While David Moyes made no additions in the closing moments of January 2017, that came only after a desperate search for a striker saw bids for Leonardo Ulloa knocked back.
On the dealdine day before that, Didier Ndong became the club’s record signing.
Sunderland are expecting business this time around but it is unlikely to be substantial and that is for two key reasons.
Firstly they are, as Jack Ross described, in a ‘reasonable’ position thanks to the tireless and swift work done by himself and his recruitment team.
A little more depth is welcome but the squad is broadly in place.
Secondly, this deadline is very much a ‘soft’ one.
Loans can sealed until the end of the month, and clauses could even be put into those deals to make them permanent come January 2019.
So the Black Cats are eager to finish their work as soon as possible, but they know that there is welcome wriggle room should it not quite come off before Thursday night.
INCOMINGS Charlie Methven surmised the attitude of his manager neatly on a radio appearance last week.
He pointed out that Jack Ross had turned down a number of players this summer and he would do so again this week if the right players weren’t available.
Certainly, there is a balancing act to be carried out because once Aiden McGeady and Duncan Watmore return from injury, Sunderland’s squad will be well stocked and Ross will not want too many players to become unhappy as they struggle for minutes.
Since then, however, an injury to Jerome Sinclair has complicated the picture. Sinclair is being assessed but looked frustarted as he left the pitch on Saturday with a hamstring injury.
Given that he did not, by Ross’s own assessment, have the best pre-season, he will need time to get back up to speed.
It is a blow for the club given his versatility and pace.
The Black Cats will now certainly want another centre-forward to compliment Charlie Wyke and Josh Maja, and preferably one who can stretch defences as Sinclair does.
At the moment, that looks the difference between the squad being truly ready for a promotion push or a little underchooked.
A winger to replace Callum McManaman would be welcome but perhaps not absolutely essential given Lynden Gooch’s exploits, and the same goes for central midfield.
Should Cattermole depart then perhaps one extra body would be welcome.
In defence Ross looks set, though that could again depend on the severity of the injury sustained by Donald Love on Saturday.
Though Sunderland’s summer turnover has been significant, the squad has perhaps retained a slightly more familiar look than many expected.
While Joel Asoro has left, much of the core young talent whose futures seemed uncertain a few months ago now look like central parts of the Jack Ross project.
Josh Maja showed his instinctive finishing during the last two pre-season campaigns was no fluke by producing when it mattered on Saturday. George Honeyman has been handed the captain’s armband and Lynden Gooch is blossoming.
Aiden McGeady was a player many expected to leave this summer but he held positive talks with Jack Ross and having missed out on pre-season due to a frustrating injury, it seems unlikely that teams will move for his services now.
In short, then, a surprise exit seems unlikely before Thursday.
Ross has been eager to stress that things change very quickly and regularly uses Callum McManaman’s exit as an example, but it is clear that the focus will be on moving out players not part of his current plans.
The main priorities are Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji.
The pair are still yet to return to Wearside and Sunderland are eager to seal their departures and ensure a cloud isn’t hanging over the club through the season.
There are hopes that Djilobodji could be offloaded in a permanent deal before Thursday, while talks have been held over a loan to buy for Ndong, similar to the deal which saw Lamine Kone head for Strasbourg.
That deal could therefore go through this month even if not completed this week.
Both financially and symbolically, they would offer a real boost to the club.
That then leaves Bryan oviedo and Lee Cattermole.
The two highest earners at the club, Sunderland will be open to offers even if Oviedo showed his quality in a stellar display against Charlton Athletic.
He has at least eased some concerns by showing his commitment and professionalism, and his attacking abilities make him an obvious asset for a manager like Jack Ross.
Nevertheless, his wages are such that the Black Cats cannot realistically resist any good offers.
A loan before the end of the month is possible.
The same goes for Lee Cattermole.
Hull are interested in a potential loan deal, which, should it be the only offer on the table, leaves the Black Cats with a dilemma.
They do not want to be presented with the same dilemma next summer if Cattermole returns from a loan, but losing all or most of his wages for a year would save a small fortune.
Either way, the manager’s decision to leave him out of the side only underlines the need for club and player to find a solution which sees him move on.