TWICE in the last fortnight, the inevitable question surrounding the January transfer window has been posed to Gus Poyet at the conclusion of a post-match press conference.
With a smile, Poyet has stood up without a word and calmly walked out of the room.
After getting his rant out of the way last month over transfers – when he was clearly looking to spark a reaction over the need for incomings – Poyet has kept his counsel, rather than further aggravating the friction over Sunderland’s spending.
Silence has been Poyet’s predominant policy, and that has been reflected in the hush surrounding Sunderland since the window opened in the early hours of Saturday morning.
For once, the Wearside rumour mill is stuck fast in first gear. There are even a few strands of tumbleweed in the air.
Now, perhaps Poyet has succeeded in plugging those leaks inside and outside the club which he has previously lambasted.
Don’t bet on it though. Agents, scouts, managers and players are notorious gossipers.
The simple truth may just be that however hard Lee Congerton and his scouting team are working behind the scenes, this window is quiet for a reason and it will remain like that.
However much Poyet lusts after an injection of quality in the final third, there is no pot of gold at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland used the bulk of their transfer budget in bringing nine players to the club during the summer and there wasn’t a lot left in the piggy bank.
It’s why the loan market – where Sunderland still have one slot available to bring in a stop-gap from one of their Premier League peers – looks by far the most likely avenue for Sunderland to pursue. Unfortunately, it requires a spot of patience to get a decent player on loan from one of the top flight’s big boys.
Sunderland have to wait and see who is considered surplus to requirements towards the end of the window, and then battle it out among the rest of the bottom 12 to snare that player, who will surely be attack-minded.
But will there be a cash signing to add to the likely loan arrival?
There have been several linked – Virgil van Dijk, Danny Ings, André-Pierre Gignac, and of course Fabio Borini.
Yet if Sunderland are to make a move for any of them, it’s far more likely to be in the summer than January.
Van Dijk is clearly at the top end of Sunderland’s shopping list for a long-term replacement for Wes Brown, with chief scout Steve Houston watching the Celtic defender at Kilmarnock on Monday.
The Black Cats were very keen last summer, but they baulked at Celtic’s £8m asking price.
But with Brown now 35, and fellow centre-halves Sebastian Coates and Santiago Vergini only on loan, a hefty sum will have to be set aside at the end of the season for a new centre-half.
Sunderland have not been religiously scouting Ings – who will almost certainly remain with Burnley until the summer – while Marseille frontman Gignac, the subject of interest from the two Milan clubs, will not leave the French leaders until his contract expires at the campaign’s conclusion.
As for the infamous Borini, Sunderland have no intention of becoming embroiled in another pursuit of the Italian, despite Liverpool’s evident eagerness to offload him.
Sunderland were messed about by the Borini flirtation in the summer, and were stung by his £90,000 a week wage demands which effectively priced him out of a Stadium of Light return.
But Poyet remains on good terms with Borini and after a season of minimal football at Anfield, and prior to entering the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract, there has to be a suspicion that Sunderland will go back in next summer.
Should Sunderland be acting now though rather in July?
In an ideal world, without a doubt.
There are clearly weaknesses in the Sunderland squad - most prominently a lack of firepower, but also the need for more creativity in midfield and cover at full-back.
The return from injury of Patrick van Aanholt, Billy Jones, Emanuele Giaccherini and Ricky Alvarez should help matters, yet Sunderland are still short.
Without significant reinforcements, Sunderland will continue to flirt with the relegation zone, while just managing to keep it at arm’s length.
But on the flip side, if Sunderland can get through January without wasting money on duds – Nacho Scocco, Alfred N’Diaye, Danny Graham etc – and still avoid the drop, then it’s not necessarily the worst-case scenario.
That looks the likeliest scenario at present, for what is shaping up to be a dry January.