Tony Gillan: Why Sunderland fans can now be officially excited with all eyes on the club's transfer business

With less than a fortnight to the return of proper football we can now be officially excited.

By Tony Gillan
Monday, 22 July, 2019, 12:18
Lynden Gooch, Jordan Willis and Chris Maguire pictured before the draw with Benfica B.

For Sunderland supporters, it takes more than a lifetime of desolation and spirit-crushing disappointments to stop them being all-a-tingle before a new campaign. You can’t beat mindless optimism.

This is something that people who dislike football, or weirdoes as they’re sometimes referred to, will never understand.

To me, pre-season friendlies, the Champions League final, the Women’s World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations (and all the other stuff that obliges non-football people to drone on about how the season never ends) are football methadone.

Other sports? Anything requiring an engine isn’t even a sport. I’ll admit to liking the Netball World Cup more than I had anticipated. Cricket and tennis are okay too. But none compares to football.

One of the ways to pass the time sans footy is to listen to blokes – and it’s always blokes – pretending to know more than they really do about their club’s new signings.

You may hear, for example, excited chatter along the lines of: “I like the look of that Conor McLaughlin. Solid right-back. Can play centre-back too.”

Yes, it’s always fun to listen to someone passing off as in-depth knowledge something they had really only learned an hour earlier by reading the Echo; or Wikipedia.

I have seen McLaughlin in the flesh precisely once; when he made his only ever appearance against Sunderland for Millwall in November 2017. I only know that because I’ve just looked it up. I have no recollection of the lad whatsoever.

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Still, I might lie about it later and pretend that I vividly recall commenting upon his decent first touch and the smart side parting in his hair, just to sound knowledgeable.

The same goes for Lee Burge, Jordan Willis, Ruben Sammut and probably anyone recruited by the club before 5pm on August 8. League One signings tend not to be household names.

With the exception of Grant Leadbitter, most Sunderland fans had only second hand information on any player recruited since June last year.

Friendlies tend not to reveal much, so we’ll just have to wait and see. All we can ask of the newbies, or any of them come to that, is that they do their best, love playing and remember that being a professional footballer is a privilege.

This opinion is sharpened by having fonder memories of gout than of the long list of odious little men to disgrace themselves at the club in recent years. At least they’ve all gone now to suck blood elsewhere.

But back to the present. The signings thus far at least play in areas that desperately needed strengthening; it’s just that we don’t yet know if they’ll improve the squad.

Further recruitment? There will be, but I’m afraid some people have peculiar ideas as to what a third tier club, still multi-millions in hock to its previous owner, should be doing with its transfer and wages policies.

Still, 12 more sleeps eh.