David Jones: Sunderland have a trump card in transfer market

Carl Jenkinson, centre.
Carl Jenkinson, centre.
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Still we await the clatter of studs that will signal the procession of new signings arriving at the Stadium of Light.

There are no alarm bells yet, but in an ideal world Dick Advocaat would start pre-season – now just a couple of weeks away – with the squad which will go into battle at Leicester on August 8.

The trick with transfers is to realise nothing is straightforward; nothing is as it seems.

This is not an ideal world though and the far more likely scenario is that Sunderland will be trying to add to their squad right up until the final throes of the transfer window.

If only it were more straightforward.

Of course there are those players who already know they have no future at their current clubs; Fabio Borini for one should have a new home before the new season kicks off, having long been aware there is no point him staying at Anfield.

But the majority of deals are much harder given a reluctance from selling clubs and sometimes the player themselves.

Take Carl Jenkinson, a player Sunderland have already tried to sign on loan from Arsenal, after agreeing a loan fee reported to be £2m.

I’m afraid I didn’t take much notice of those reports because it’s one thing convincing a club with the colour of your money, another thing entirely persuading the player to move somewhere he doesn’t want to.

After all, this is a player who’s spent his life in London, played all of his football in London and is wanted again by the team where he excelled last season, West Ham United.

Perhaps the Hammers are reluctant to meet the £2m fee and Arsenal wanted to flush them out by publicising the agreement with Sunderland. I’m sure they’ll reach a compromise, but it might drag on for weeks.

The trick with transfers is to realise nothing is straightforward; nothing is as it seems.

I have some experience of this lower down the ladder as a non executive director of Oxford United.

After a strong finish to the season, the board met with our manager Michael Appleton to talk through the year we’d had and the upcoming challenges of a new season.

We all agreed that to give us our best possible chance of success we needed to strike early in the transfer market.

So far we’ve added a new goalkeeper, an attacking central midfield player, a centre forward and managed to convert one of last season’s loans into a permanent deal. But there’s more to be done.

We’ve been speaking to a couple of players and more importantly to their agents for over a month now without any resolution.

The difficulty is that in both cases the clubs who own the players are doing all they can to keep their services.

It’s our job to convince the players – and yes their agents – that Oxford is the best next step in their career.

We’ll meet the players, tell them our ambitions and tell them what kind of financial package they can expect playing for us, but there is nothing more we can do.

I’ve read some of the stories in local papers linking us with certain players and I know they must have come from agents, again flushing out other clubs interest in their player.

There comes a point when the conversation goes on for too long that we have to walk away.

We have to know the player wants to join us for the right reasons and if it takes too much persuasion, or too much money, then generally that player is not the right one for us. If it comes down to money then they’re not the character we’re looking for.

A different level to Sunderland admittedly, but the same challenges are there.

Sunderland have to use their trump card this summer to make the breakthrough that will lift them above perennial strugglers.

That trump card isn’t wages because whatever Sunderland can pay there are at least 10 or 15 clubs in the division who can match them.

But what they have is a manager known and respected throughout European football.

Dick Advocaat can look transfer targets in the eye and say “come and play for me, I will make you a better player.”

He can also use the trick I’m told Swansea favour in helping make ambitious deals happen: “use us a stepping stone and we won’t stand in your way when the big clubs come calling.”

They were true to their word on Wilfried Bony and I’m sure Andre Ayew has been given the same assurances before signing from Marseille, and a few quid admittedly!

But Sunderland’s problem will be convincing their targets of their ambitions.

That’s why the first big signing is so important, get that right and the Premier League will take note, and it might just open the floodgates at the Stadium of Light.