Chris Coleman on Sunderland’s ‘red flashing light’ transfer priority and how he’ll convince players to join

Josh Maja looks to make an impact after getting past Boro's Grant Leadbitter. Picture by Frank Reid
Josh Maja looks to make an impact after getting past Boro's Grant Leadbitter. Picture by Frank Reid
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Chris Coleman admits that a striker is now his absolute priority in the January transfer window.

The Sunderland boss is expected to seal a deal for Chelsea centre-back Jake Clarke-Salter today and is ‘optimistic’ that he will be followed by more signings in the coming weeks.

Strengthening his forward line will be key after the departure of leading goalscorer Lewis Grabban, who has returned to parent club Bournemouth.

Coleman was phlegmatic about losing the 29-year-old, pointing out that many of his goals were ‘consolations and penalties’.

Nevertheless. he is actutely aware that Aiden McGeady is the club’s next best scorer, with five, and greater presence up front is needed.

His current options are James Vaughan, who is low on confidence and linked with a move away himself, and Josh Maja, talented but perhaps not yet ready to lead the line on his own.

Coleman said: “Once we found out that clause could be exercised, we’ve been working on a replacement or replacements.

“Obviously, now it’s actually happened, there’s a red light flashing now, so that’s something we’ve got to do.”

Clarke-Salter’s signing will reflect the market Sunderland are shopping in, and competition will be stiff for the best talent in the Premier League’s top academies.

Coleman is remaining optimistic and believes that the club’s predicament may actually work in his favour.

He said: “We’re not financially strong, but, with where we are, on the flipside of the coin, players who come to us are going to get a lot of football.

“Players who are a bit younger, looking for experience, they can go to a club at the top of the league and get 50 per cent or come to us and get 70-80 per cent and that experience is valuable.

“I’m probably a bit naïve, I think ‘come on, come and play for Sunderland Football Club’.

“You’re going to play in a magnificent home stadium in a real tough atmosphere because we can’t get over the line with wins and that’s a test for you.

“We’re in a relegation dogfight and all that experience (that comes with that). I don’t care where or what club you’re at, if you come here and get that all experience, it’s great experience that.

“You can’t come here if you’ve not got an appetite, that’s for sure.”

With a daunting trip to fourth-top Cardiff in the Championship just days away and his side struggling at the foot of the table, Coleman is under no illusions as to just important this month will be for the club’s prospects of beating the drop.

He said: “When you’re sitting where we are, it’s very real. But we’ve got enough good characters in the dressing room, with one or two of them missing. Get them back and (it can be better).

“I have to emphasise it’ll be a big window for us in what we do to add to what we’ve got. It’ll be a big window for us.

“We must [add], if we don’t get what we want it won’t be for the want of trying.

“The thing is, we won’t be the only club trying. Some players we’re looking at, there’s a host of other clubs looking, too.

“Eventually, it won’t be a money thing, it’ll be a player thing.

“Do you go there, or do you go there to fight for something different.

“That will be out of our hands.”