Phil Smith: Sunderland Cats can’t afford to drift like last summer, they must act swiftly and not get left behind

Sunderland owner Ellis Short.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short.
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There is perhaps only one common theme uniting the three sides promoted from the Championship this season.

Certainly, there were no comparisons in the budgets they were operating on, Huddersfield’s remarkable promotion secured despite only three teams in the division spending less.

What Newcastle, Brighton and the Terriers did all share was that they started the season with stability and security, doing their summer business early and effectively.

Huddersfield boss David Wagner’s revolution, in particular, was dizzying in its speed. Having had the best part of six months to assess his squad and what was needed, he moved quickly to bring in loanees and players from the German market.

It is worth noting that on the day the transfer window opened in July, 10 players officially made the switch to Yorkshire. Most had confirmed their deals months before.

Many would go on to form the heartbeat of the side that upset all the odds. Aaron Mooy, the talismanic playmaker, arrived five days later. Danny Ward and Kasey Palmer, arriving from Liverpool and Chelsea, were signed within a fortnight.

Little wonder that Huddersfield made a flying start to the season, winning five of their first six league games. That early form would be crucial to maintaining their play-off position when their form faltered somewhat later in the campaign.

At Sunderland, there is a sense of drift and uncertainty after the initial catharsis of David Moyes’ resignation.

It is early days in the summer, but already the Black Cats are missing out on valuable time as they face up to the enormous challenge of rebuilding the club.

Ellis Short promised to share his plans with fans at the end of the season, but so far there has been radio silence from the hierarchy.

There are mitigating factors, of course.

Moyes’ resignation may have derailed their planning somewhat, though it can’t have come as too great a shock given the cryptic press conferences given by the Scot towards the end of his tenure.

It is true, too, that much can be done even without a new manager.

Pre-season plans are all but rubber-stamped, decisions on players to be retained made. The profile of manager being targeted, experienced Championship campaigners, also suggests that the players being targeted in the transfer market may also remain quite consistent.

With the likes of Middlesbrough and Leeds still looking for managers, and a number of others clubs anxiously waiting to see if their own bosses will be targeted, the Black Cats will feel no need to panic as of yet.

It has been surprising, nevertheless, to see such little movement.

Sunderland have made a slow start before and roared to the Championship title, but the surge of energy and momentum that Roy Keane brought to the club increasingly feels like a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.

It seems unlikely to be repeated when the likes of Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday look to have much better stability and funding. Norwich and Derby are likely to be stronger, too.

The Black Cats are already facing a tall order given their financial constraints, and what they cannot afford is to fall further behind by letting the search for a new manager drag on too long.

Many on Wearside felt rightly wronged when the FA’s protracted appointment of Sam Allardyce left Sunderland limping into the new season last year, so it would a frustrating irony if the same was to happen again through Sunderland’s own doing.

Whoever takes the post faces a major battle to succeed.

The sooner they can get started the better.