Why Â£2m Celtic signing proved to be yet another Sunderland transfer flop
Dotted i's and crossed t's were the only missing ingredient from Anthony Reveillere's contract extension at the end of last season.
The ex-French international had demonstrated that there was still enough left in the tank to contribute at the top level to persuade then sporting director Lee Congerton to prolong his career.
Both parties had agreed contract terms and Reveillere’s extended stay was merely dependent on being formalised by the new Sunderland manager.
But when it was Dick Advocaat who ultimately returned to the Stadium of Light last June, the Dutchman prompted a U-turn over Reveillere.
Advocaat wanted a more youthful, energetic right-back, who was capable of providing the width and attacking threat in Sunderland’s system.
Reveillere was released (and subsequently retired) and the alternative Congerton found was Adam Matthews; a relatively inexpensive outlay at £2million, with Champions League experience after almost 150 appearances for Celtic.
On the face of it, it was an understandable, if not particularly ‘sexy’ capture.
But within a matter of weeks of Advocaat working with Matthews, the then Sunderland head coach was unconvinced by the 24-year-old and whether he had the capabilities of being a Premier League player.
In fairness, Matthews was given scant opportunity to prove his credentials and his cause wasn’t helped by ankle ligament damage sustained on his first start in red and white against Exeter in the Capital One Cup.
However, in that 6-3 cup win, throughout pre-season and in his subsequent outings for the Under-21s, Matthews persistently looked defensively suspect.
Without question, the Welsh international had the capabilities to fulfil Advocaat’s remit in an attacking sense, yet there was scant assurance that he was solid enough at the other end of the pitch for the Premier League.
Advocaat’s reservations were made crystal clear by the desperate search for another right-back in the final hours of the summer window, before DeAndre Yedlin eventually arrived on loan from Spurs.
While Matthews was on the bench under Advocaat’s successor, Sam Allardyce similarly showed little inclination to use the Welsh international.
He simply became the forgotten man of Sunderland’s summer recruitment drive; stewing in the U21s, as Allardyce strived to sign yet another right-back in the January transfer window.
There were Championship enquiries for Matthews in January – Leeds and Birmingham included – yet Sunderland were wary of letting him go at that stage because of a lack of cover at full-back.
Matthews might not have been in first-team contention, yet there were only three other full-backs available in Sunderland’s first-team squad.
But the capture of Emmanuel Eboue has changed the picture for Matthews.
The arrival of the ex-Arsenal man on a short-term deal has given Allardyce to licence to offload Matthews and Bristol City were largely banging at an open door when the Championship strugglers came calling last week.
If Matthews catches the eye at Ashton Gate, then there will similarly be minimal resistance from Sunderland towards a permanent move at the end of the season.
“Maybe, if all goes well, we can sort something out after the end of the season,” said Matthews.
“I’m not thinking that far ahead at the minute, because I want to come in and play some games first. But if everything works out, then I’m sure something can be done.”
But even if Matthews departs and ends his Sunderland career after a total of 94 minutes of first-team football, the Black Cats won’t recoup anywhere near the £2m they paid.
It’s yet more of the money that Sunderland have thrown down the drain in the transfer market over the last five years.