Chris Young column: Long wait ... but Sunderland need to ge t it right

Marcos Alonso.
Marcos Alonso.
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GUS POYET made his position on recruitment crystal clear in the January transfer window.

Specific players, rather than specific positions, would form Sunderland’s blueprint for injecting fresh blood into the squad.

As it materialised, there was a mixed success rate among those brought in at the turn of the year – only Marcos Alonso proving to be an overwhelming hit in his contribution towards survival.

But the principle had been set. Poyet would not mine-sweep among all those players shamelessly bandied around in the two annual windows.

The Uruguayan’s method of working is to identify a couple of left-backs – for example – and patiently wait to get them, rather than considering the reams of alternatives who can be signed quicker or cheaper.

It’s one of the factors why Sunderland’s current search for new signings appears to be at a snail’s pace.

Sunderland are playing the long game to land their main targets, such as Fabio Borini and Marcos Alonso.

They won’t go for the panicked, easy option of another Andrea Dossena.

Inevitably, that has made supporters twitchy.

There’s no escaping the huge gaps currently in Sunderland’s squad.

At least half-a-dozen signings are needed to make the Black Cats competitive in the Premier League.

With no further acquisitions expected imminently, Sunderland have to accept that their purchasing policy has sparked more than a handful of jitters among the paying public.

The sight of the neighbours bringing in a quick-fire succession of big-money imports from the Continent doesn’t help matters either.

But the bottom line is that Sunderland cannot afford yet another failed transfer window. There have been too many recently.

There hasn’t been an overwhelmingly successful window at the Stadium of Light since Steve Bruce first took charge.

Another dud will surely see Sunderland pay a much more painful price after somehow earning a reprieve last season.

Poyet and Lee Congerton have to ensure there are no more transfer flops and if that takes time, so be it.

Certainly, the supermarket sweep in the early part of the summer proved to be no guarantee of success 12 months ago.

It’s no good having the bulk of the squad in place by the end of July if those signings are simply not up to scratch.

And looking back further – to a time when Roberto De Fanti didn’t possess the keys to the sweet shop – Bruce wasted no time in being the transfer market’s pace-setter in his final summer at the helm.

Armed with the loot from the sale of Jordan Henderson, Bruce could not spend quickly enough – a ploy he has practised again this summer at Hull, regardless of the price tags.

Bruce’s failure to adequately replace the talents of Henderson, Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck, Steed Malbranque and Bolo Zenden, or form any sense of cohesion with his new-look side, set the club back significantly.

They have arguably never recovered.

There are clearly other factors at work in the transfer market this summer too, other than unwavering patience to land the major targets.

The well of money which Ellis Short unearthed at the start of his tenure dried up some time ago.

Sunderland are attempting to operate on a far more self-sufficient basis these days, regardless of the financial suicide which continues to be practised by some of their rivals.

At this stage, with the World Cup still a vivid memory, the domestic market – which Sunderland have focused on – is yet to settle down.

Spending £8million on Robert Snodgrass or £11m on Ross McCormack should not be a feasible option for any right-minded club.

The motives of any transfer targets have to be considered too.

How many players at this stage of the summer will jump at the chance of joining a side who just avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth?

“Wait!” will be the frantic plea from any agent boasting a brain cell (although admittedly that discounts a few...)

But that policy of patience is not so prevalent among supporters.

“When are we going to sign someone?” has become an increasingly regular and urgent plea over the last fortnight.

Perhaps Sunderland would have been helped by Poyet publicly explaining the status of the hunt for new recruits.

But words can be empty.

Those on the terraces need to see some action.

They need to see that the long, slow road reaches the right ending.


A phrase which appears to the sceptics to be merely an excuse to keep the wallet strings tied.

Why are Sunderland subscribing to FFP when other Premier League clubs show no sense of budgetary responsibility?

Many have made that point, and rightly so.

The simple answer is that too many other clubs are ignoring it and banking on facing no repercussions.

Certainly, the talk of QPR receiving a multi-million pound fine has receded since their return to the Premier League.

FFP is geared towards clubs only spending what they earn, rather than delving into the overdraft or relying on a cash-rich magnate.

Over the next few years, the amounts they can splash out over that income is (theoretically) supposed to be reduced.

So if, for example, Sunderland coughed up £7m on Jozy Altidore last summer, it wouldn’t be just pride and money they would lose by selling him for £1m this summer.

Their kitty for reinvesting that money would be significantly reduced by a £6m loss.

As a sub-section of FFP, clubs can only use a small proportion of the new TV deal on extra additions to the wage bill.

That is why Sunderland have been trying to reduce their staffing costs by offloading the dead-wood.

Now, the lack of clear punishment muddies the picture and inevitably prompts question marks over why Sunderland are so pro-active in following the legislation.

But with football increasingly keen to bring its house in order, Sunderland need to be on a more stable footing. The days of relying on Ellis Short’s millions have gone.