Phil Smith: What Sunderland fans can expect before the transfer window closes on Monday
The transfer window for Sunderland shuts on Monday, with a few issues still to be settled.
In his weekly column, Phil Smith runs through what fans can expect in the closing days....
SIGN A LEFT BACK
Thus far, Sunderland’s summer recruitment has been patient and targeted.
They have brought a greater equilibrium, both in profile and pay, to the squad. Jack Ross has also been able to add some of the key characteristics he felt he was just short of last season.
One area, though, where the progression has been far from ideal is at left-back.
Last season, Ross was left in the far from ideal scenario of trying to manage three players in one position after an expected move for Bryan Oviedo failed to materialise.
So this time around a move for Reece James was sanctioned, but a suitor for Oviedo then left him with just one option in Denver Hume, a player with just a handful of senior starts.
A tricky game at Ipswich Town underlined how big a risk that was.
To the credit for Hume and Ross, that has been managed superbly and looks increasingly like a blip. Nevertheless, cover and competition is an absolute necessity.
Ross is open-minded on who comes in, in terms of age and whether it is a loan or a permanent deal.
What he deems a must, however, is a player with a decent amount of first-team experience.
It has not been easy.
Four potential targets moved on loan to Championship clubs on the final day of the second tier’s transfer window.
It was hoped then that players who failed to find a move on that day would then look to Sunderland as an obvious preferred destination. That may well be true, but the flip side is of course that Championship clubs now are not able to replace anyone who leaves, and so may be reluctant to do business.
Ross has said regularly that he will do business.
He has multiple targets, on both loan and permanent terms.
So as of yet there is no major need for concern but this is without question the main area to do business in the final days of the window.
It is the one position where Sunderland currently do not look robust enough for the long slog that is a League One promotion push.
WHAT NEXT FOR BALDWIN?
Ross has been clear in identifying a superior number of clean sheets as one of the main reasons Luton Town and Barnsley beat the Black Cats to the top two last season.
More generally, he has also admitted that a greater athleticism and physicality has been needed in his squad.
Central defence has been a key part of that.
Jordan Willis brings raw pace and a good spring in the air, while it has taken just a handful of games for Alim Ozturk to fight his way back into the team.
The departure of Glenn Loovens saw Ross move quickly to add Joel Lynch and that addition was telling.
Lynch is a physical player with rich experience in the Football League.
“Joel is an experienced defender with a lot of know-how,” Ross said.
“He has played the bulk of his career in the Championship and will bring a lot of physicality and strength to our squad.”
“It is important to have those attributes as a defender and that was why we wanted to bring him to the club.”
Jack Baldwin is therefore fifth choice, arguably sixth given that Conor McLaughlin has been given the nod when Ross has started with a back three.
The Black Cats boss has admitted that if the 26-year-old decides to move in search of regular football, he would not stand in his way.
Though he was an investment last summer, it would make sense for the club to make a saving if he is indeed out of the picture, providing the terms of any deal were beneficial.
Baldwin was one of the star performers in the 3-1 victory over Premier League Burnley last night in the second round of the Carabao Cup, impressing on his first start of the season.
Ross has stressed that he would be than happy to keep such a good professional around.
“Selfishly, for me, it’s no problem [if he stays],” Ross, speaking before last night’s game, said.
“I’ve got a player there that does everything right on a daily basis, conducts himself properly, trains properly, does extra, engages with my coaches in terms of learning and developing.
“That’s great for me, but I also always, always appreciate that players want to play.
“That’s why we have regular conversations to make sure he’s ok.”
Baldwin, too, will know that there are likely to be plenty of cup games he could get a chance to impress in.
He may well look at Ozturk’s example and back himself to make an impression yet.
A FORWARD NEEDED?
If Ross can complete a deal for a left-back, he will feel his squad is in excellent shape.
In every position he would have two options, particularly when you consider the versatility of Marc McNulty and Chris Maguire in the forward areas.
He has said, however, that if the right deal becomes available the club will be alert to it, and could trim the squad afterwards.
Few positions look vulnerable, though Duncan Watmore’s frustrating start to the season could mean that us one area where a genuine winger might be useful.
Lynden Gooch’s form in that regard is encouraging.
LOANS FOR YOUNGSTERS
Ross is a big advocate of getting young players out on loan.
It was transformative last year for Elliot Embleton, who left on deadline day and over the course of a season at Grimsby, became a player the Black Cats boss deemed ready for a place in his senior squad.
Sunderland have already secured short-term moves for some of their young players, with Jordan Hunter and Lee Connelly joining South Shields.
Ross has already named Jack Diamond (who spent time at Spennymoor Town last season), Jack Bainbridge and Jake Hackett as three others who could benefit.
Then there is Ruben Sammut, who made a big impression when given the chance to train and play with the senior side in Portugal.
Ross said then that he needed either to be pushing for more action, or go out on loan.
If he does stay then the EFL Trophy could be the perfect opportunity for him to get another opportunity.
Sunderland Ladies continued their encouraging start to the season with a 3-2 win over Newcastle United in the FA Women’s National League Cup.
In truth, it was a match they will probably feel they should have won more convincingly.
They dominated both possession and territory but were unable to kill the game off.
Grace McCatty admitted on twitter afterwards that the team had not got out of second gear, but quite rightly added that a win is a win.
Especially on derby day.
It was not without positives, either.
16-year-old Jessica Brown scored two superb goals, one an instinctive finish in the box, the other a glorious long-range effort from well outside the area.
Bridget Galloway once again proved the difference inside the box, and the 1,168 watching on inside the Stadium of Light were treated to a wonderful midfield display from Mollie Lambert.
Lambert is now one of the more experienced players in this squad and it showed.
In both teams, that crucial composure on the ball was lacking at times, but Lambert’s willingness to take a moment and pick the right pass was crucial.
Energetic, tenacious and calm when needed, this was a captain’s performance worthy of the occasion.
With regular captain Keira Ramshaw set to return from suspension this weekend, the team is looking in good order for what is a big campaign ahead.