Lack of striker will hurt Sunderland but deadline day additions give Grayson crucial variety

Barnsley FC 3-1 Sunderland FC, Football League Championship, Oakwell 26th August 2018.  Picture by FRANK REID
Barnsley FC 3-1 Sunderland FC, Football League Championship, Oakwell 26th August 2018. Picture by FRANK REID
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Sunderland’s window ended much as it started, with Simon Grayson putting faith in players whose careers have fallen on hard times.

Each one in their own way a gamble.

Jonny Williams, a fan favourite and a prodigious talent at Crystal Palace, but one who has never been able to put a run of consistent games together due to injury.

Callum McManaman, a traditional, direct winger but one who has stagnated since leaving Wigan for West Brom.

Marc Wilson, a reliable, resilient utility player but one who has never made an appearance for Bournemouth since signing.

None of these players come with any guarantees, as has been the case with each of Grayson’s 10 summer additions.

Then there is the lack of a striker, the most obvious deficiency in the squad and a position where Sunderland have frustratingly light for too long.

Max Gradel will go down as the one who got away this window, a deal all but agreed before Bournemouth got cold feet. Pacy, versatile, direct, he was the perfect solution.

Ross McCormack was explored, but the finances involved were insurmountable. It quickly became clear on deadline day that this pursuit had gone cold and perhaps a while ago, talk of Steve Bruce pulling the plug at the last minute certainly wide of the mark.

The failure to find another option will hurt Sunderland this season, even if Lewis Grabban can build on a positive start to life in Red and White.

Sunderland looked short before deadline day, and they still do. How can they not, when Birmingham are landing the supremely talented Jota in a record deal, when Aston Villa can leave McCormack in exile behind another two £12million strikers?

The positive is that Grayson has ultimately got what he truly needed: variety.

In Williams, a midfielder of a totally different profile to those already in his squad.

Someone who can add some invention in front of Cattermole and Ndong, and create things for the strikers in front of him. Someone who will want the ball, will keep it, and make things happen.

Wilson is a good centre-back who will also give Grayson the option of playing with a genuine midfield anchor, something so obviously missing at Oakwell and at various points throughout pre-season.

McManaman should reduce the creative dependence on Aiden McGeady, and having the pair in the same side should make it harder for teams to double up on the influential Irishmen.

If Sunderland’s outlay has ultimately fallen well short of what many expected, then it is worth remembering too that no one would have expected Lamine Kone to stay on Wearside.

Where his Black Cats career goes from here will be fascinating. He has been exemplary in the early dtages of the season, continue in that vein and Sunderland have one of the best in the division in that position. The same goes for Didier Ndong, poor at Oakwell but otherwise a typically welcome bundle of energy.

Credit must go to boss Simon Grayson, who has been handed a shoestring budget and never complained, simply rolling his sleeves up and making the best of it.

He at least now has the options to rotate, to surprise opponents as he craves.

Sunderland have rolled the dice three times more at the final hour. The final picture looks to be one of a flawed, but competitive squad. At times this summer even that was in doubt.