Tony Gillan: Don't expect any big Sunderland signings and why no parachute payments - coupled with no promotion - could be the next disaster

The League One transfer window, the only transfer window that matters, closes on September 2 at 5pm.

Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 16:30 pm
Sunderland's Stadium of Light stadium.

It’s later than in higher divisions because Premier League clubs voted to close the window before their season began. It’s at 5pm so agents can be home in time for Eggheads.

Premier League clubs can still sell, so Jordan Henderson might see the error of his ways and return to Wearside. But the possibility is a remote one. So who will Sunderland sign?

Don’t build your hopes up. The fiscal mess hasn’t been completely removed and SAFC is skint, skint and furthermore – skint.

This is worth pointing out. Again. Most people understand, but a fair few still wonder.

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Case in point was a call to a radio station last week, demanding to know what happened to monies received for Josh Maja (most of it was spent on Will Grigg if anyone else is interested).

The caller became more bizarre still, asking about fees received “for Pickford, for Henderson, for Welbeck?”

Where to start? The Jordan Pickford sale was in 2017 with the club then a reported £139m in debt. End of mystery.

Henderson left eight years ago, so his transfer fee has long since gone from beneath the squeaky floorboard in the changing rooms.

Danny Welbeck was a loan player. I’m not sure what you receive when selling a player who’s registered with another club; but my best guess would be about 18 months.

There is much misunderstanding of the finances. Not that it’s all bad news.

Television money is down to crumbs. Still, according to Charlie Methven, the Checkatrade Trophy yielded £1m to Sunderland last season (the competition’s single saving grace). A few quid was wrung from the play-offs too.

Then there are home gates of over 30,000 and parachute payments.

But the parachute payments are needed to secure the debt to Ellis Short. Not owing banks doesn’t equate to “debt-free” and the £14.5m Sunderland will receive in 2019-20 is their last.

As of July 2018 accounts, a further £18.6m was reportedly still owed in transfer fees; not least for players who had been and gone. The wage bill has been massively reduced, but remains substantial.

It’s difficult to know, even with published figures, exactly what the overall debt is.

Many people are to blame, but it’s almost entirely attributable to a string of signings who were bad footballers and even worse human beings.

So the problems are years old.

But new ones appear too. Lee Cattermole’s pay-off is probably in excess of what Hull City paid for George Honeyman.

Debts are paid in instalments, so SAFC will be paying the likes of Cattermole, Donald Love and others for a while yet. Ditto Martin Bain for the million-plus pay-off he “earned” last year.

While I wish I was a quid behind Stewart Donald, rather than the current fiver, he isn’t an especially wealthy man in football terms.

Even if he was, everyone except Manchester City must adhere to financial fair play.

This will be an even bigger issue next season.

No parachute payments, coupled with no promotion, could be the next disaster. The playing budget must be less than 60 percent of turnover.

I could go on. But returning to the question of who the next signing will be, the answer is: “No one you’ve heard of.”