Everything we now know about Sunderland's January plans and the deals you can expect to see

Sunderland are yet to land their first signing of the January window but Phil Parkinson offered an upbeat message on Thursday.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 12:11 pm

He said Sunderland are ‘closing in’ on targets and that he is confident that he will get the backing he needs.

So what can we expect and what have we learned about their plans?

THE KEY AREA

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Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson

Phil Parkinson’s key business looks increasingly likely to be up front.

Though Charlie Wyke has led the line with increasing success in recent weeks, Will Grigg and Marc McNulty have struggled for minutes and goals since the new manager’s arrival.

Wyke’s role as a target man has been crucial to the team’s improving performances and so competition for the 27-year-old is the main priority this month.

With Aiden McGeady set to leave the club later in the window, the Black Cats boss could also do with another versatile forward capable of playing up front or in one of the other attacking roles in his preferred systems.

Kyle Lafferty is a primary target, available on a free transfer after his contract with Norweigan side Sarpsborg expired.

Lafferty is interested in the switch to the Black Cats, and visited the Academy of Light earlier this week.

Though the 32-year-old has spoken publicly of his interest in a move to Hearts, where he was an immensely popular figure during a previous spell there, it remains to be seen whether Daniel Stendel sees him as a suitable player for his rebuild.

Sunderland see a player who can fit Parkinson’s demands for a centre-forward and who has a habit of stepping up in big games, at club and international level.

The player does, however, have significant interest from clubs abroad.

After his departure from Cardiff City, who have released him from his contract, Gary Madine is another player who is of interest to Sunderland, given his success working with Parkinson at Bolton Wanderers.

Discussions are not thought to have reached an advanced stage and at this point he remains simply one of a number of options being considered.

Burton Albion’s Liam Boyce is a target being pursued, a striker with a record of scoring goals in League One and someone who has shown versatility in at times operating off the flank, as he did to great success when Nigel Clough’s side beat the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light earlier in the campaign.

The Northern Ireland international could be available at a bargain price this month, given that his contract expires in the summer.

The Brewers plan to offer him a new deal but Clough has been candid in admitting that should there be no indication that he will commit, their business model is such that they will consider offers.

It remains to be seen whether Parkinson will also pursue a more traditional winger. Currently the system used does not require them, but he may seek extra versatility and earlier in the window was linked with Hakeeb Adelakun, who has since joined Rotherham United.

Should Parkinson land the attacking options he is seeking, then it could lead to more departures.

Marc McNulty has been linked with an exit, though it is worth stressing that the terms of his loan arrangement means that he cannot be recalled by Reading unless Sunderland agree.

As it stands, that will not happen, with the Black Cats boss saying the Scot has been ‘unlucky not to feature more’ in recent weeks.

However, he also admitted that the conversation could be revisited later in the window if he strengthens.

The other obvious potential outgoing would be Will Grigg, though that situation is considerably more complicated.

It remains to be seen whether any club could put together an offer acceptable to Sunderland given their significant outlay a year ago, and even despite his current struggles in front of goal, it would be an almighty risk to let him join a potential rival given his previous pedigree in the third tier.

Parkinson also wants to send Benji Kimpioka out on loan, although he also knows that Stewart Donald may see it differently, given he is yet to commit his long-term future to the club and has just six months left on his current deal.

That remains a major hurdle in his Sunderland progression to overcome.

MIDFIELD

One of the most interesting storylines this month is whether Ethan Robson can put himself in contention for regular first team minutes.

The early signs are good for the 23-year-old.

Ian Holloway gave Parkinson a glowing reference on the back of a successful loan at Grimsby Town and he has made an impression on the Black Cats boss in his first week back on the Academy of Light pitches.

His technical quality has never been in doubt, but he is also making significant physical strides on the back of his two loans this year.

It is too early for Parkinson to make a definitive decision, and given his recent return, it seems unlikely that he will be able to play a significant part against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.

Nevertheless, he has said that we will pick him if required, a move that means his only option in terms of going back out on loan would be to return to Grimsby Town.

Should that happen, Parkinson will move for another central midfielder following Dylan McGeouch’s move to Aberdeen.

DEFENCE

Parkinson has confirmed that he will not recall Jack Baldwin, despite his recent move to a system with three orthodox central defenders.

He currently has four options in that position, all of whom have been in decent form of late, while Conor McLaughlin can also play on the right of a back three.

Parkinson will try and secure another, and has enquired about Bristol City’s Bailey Wright.

He confirmed his interest on Thursday when asked about the 27-year-old alongside Lafferty and Boyce.

“Bailey Wright is an experienced centre-half,” he said.

“These are players we’re interested in but I would imagine so are a lot of other clubs.”

City boss Lee Johnson says there are five or six clubs interested in a player whose contract expires in six months time.

With extensive experience in both League One and the Championship, he would fit the bill for Sunderland, with assistant Steve Parkin admitting that he and Parkinson are keen to add that to their squad this month.

Parkinson may also look to recruit at full-back/wing-back after the departure of Laurens De Bock. He is currently reliant on Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume to provide a significant attacking threat and may well decide that he needs cover.

He has said, however, that this is not a main priority, with O’Nien and McLaughlin offering him versatility.

Leeds United’s Lewie Coyle, who has been linked, has returned to Fleetwood Town where he has impressed in the first half of the season.