Phil Smith's Sunderland AFC Q&A: Dion Sanderson, Denver Hume and where the Black Cats stand in the transfer market discussed

Sunderland are stepping up their pre-season preparations with a trip to Scotland.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 12:46 pm

The Black Cats are in Edinburgh ahead of a clash with Hearts this weekend.

Sunderland are hoping to step up their other transfer business this week, and Phil Smith has been answering questions from readers as part of his weekly Q&A.

You can read all the responses below….

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Corry Evans is expected to join Sunderland

Are we close to any signings?

Why are other clubs making signings and not Sunderland?

We last spoke to Lee Johnson ten days ago and he said that at that stage, Sunderland were in talks over three or four players.

His hope was for two additions over the next week.

Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson

Since then we’ve had the arrival of Alex Pritchard, but there are clearly still some major gaps in the squad.

So with the season pretty much three weeks away, the concern from the fanbase is entirely understandable.

The club are in advanced talks with Corry Evans, formerly of Blackburn Rovers, and the expectation is that deal will get wrapped up.

More broadly, I do think there are one or two factors worth considering.

I do get the impression that the Black Cats’ steadfast commitment to ensuring they get value from the market might have surprised some, who had perhaps expected a takeover to mean lavish spending.

Johnson has alluded

And I think in terms of the loan/Championship market, the Euros and the financial climate in that division is having an impact.

Other clubs have made signings, yes, but you would hope if the Black Cats’ ambitions are to win promotion then they would be operating in a slightly different market, rather than League One free agents which is what most business done has been.

It’s fair, for sure, to be concerned about the way teams such as Wigan Athletic and Ipswich Town have made a fast start and are showing a significant willingness to invest.

It’s far from ideal that some key areas of the squad are currently scarcely resourced, and it will have an impact on pre-season. Of that there is no doubt.

Sources insist Sunderland will be very active this window, and that there are a significant number of irons in the fire.

The a deal for Evans is close and hopefully that kick starts further business.

What's the latest on Dion Sanderson?

I don’t think we will sign Sanderson but I’m going to be a hypocrite and ask this anyway. What’s happened with our alleged bid for him? Haven’t heard anything since. Even if we heard it’s definitely not happening then we could at least move on.

Well as you’d expect, Sunderland were in very close dialogue with Wolves over Sanderson’s development during his loan here and moving into the summer, there is no doubt that the Black Cats were eager to be kept informed over his availability.

Personally, it didn’t make sense to me that Wolves would look to sell at a bargain price, particularly if they do have the option to extend his current deal for another year.

He’s an asset whose value can soar if he has a successful campaign in the Championship, and that’s always what I’ve expected to happen.

If Sanderson himself decides he wants a permanent move, then there will be second-tier clubs interest.

Sure, he loved his time here, but theoretically let’s say Sheffield United put in a bid (and they are interested).

We’re talking about a club likely to challenge for automatic promotion to the Premier League, who’ve just appointed a manager with a track record of doing exactly that and in a style that will suit Sanderson.

The point I’m making (in a very long-winded way) is that I don’t think a quick sale to League One was ever going to be on the cards.

Sunderland will want to keep an eye on developments, in case the situation changes and they can potentially strike a deal that suits all parties.

But I think from the start of the summer there has been a realism that a deal would be difficult, and that both Sanderson and Wolves will have a lot of options and from a higher level.

I fear one of the many costs of not winning promotion will be watching Sanderson play elsewhere next season, but we’ll see.

What I’d say for sure is that the club have known that it won’t be straightforward to bring him back, and so there is no excuse for not having proper contingency planning in place.

I think it is in place, and the talks with Manchester City over Callum Doyle probably reflect that.

Of course, given Arbenit Xhemajli needs time to realistically get up to full speed, they almost certainly need two.

Where is our new striker?

I do think there’ll be movement up front, and there is an expectation that Charlie Wyke will be replaced.

Broadly, I don’t think the forward areas are too far off where you’d expect them to be at this stage of pre-season, in all honesty.

The attacking midfield options are good with Embleton back and Pritchard in. In the wide areas you’re probably one short but there is some real quality there, and central midfield looks stronger when you factor in the likely arrival of Evans.

It’s defence where I have major concerns at the moment.

No full backs, three centre-backs, one of whom is recovering from a major injury. The most impressive performer in that position from last season has obviously returned to Wolves, and so there is major surgery to be done there and little time to do it.

That’s my biggest worry by a big, big distance right now.

Up front, Ross Stewart is slated to have a big role this season and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how he goes. I thought he looked really good at the end of last season.

Will Grigg is in Edinburgh with the team at the moment and I thought he looked sharp in his link-up play at Spennymoor.

Johnson likes him, and certainly isn’t going to push him out but clearly the player himself has a big call to make.

Any updates on Denver Hume signing?

This one is very definitely a concern, isn’t it?

Hume’s season obviously ended in another hamstring (or so it looked) injury at Lincoln City, and it’s not clear at the moment whether that has had an impact in terms of him having to recover.

There’s definitely been hope all the way through that Hume could be convinced to stay.

Johnson has been absolutely clear that he thinks he has a bright future and the club feel that he is a potential asset for the future.

Johnson told us at Spennymoor Town that he hadn’t been too involved in the process, which hopefully is an indication that footballing concerns aren’t necessarily in play.

There’s never been the level of pessimism behind the scenes that there was regarding Charlie Wyke, for example, but clearly to be at this stage without resolution is an issue.

Sunderland need clarity because full backs are going to be so important to the playing philosophy.

From the outside it looks like we are struggling in the transfer market have you had any input from the club that they have significant funds to strengthen or are we relying in the main on the weak squad left over from last season?

It appears there is not a lot money for transfers this summer. With the squad being depleted after releasing so many, are the club prepared to rely on youth to start the season or will we get the usual panic buys/loans at the last minute?

Lee Johnson has said that there are a number of bids currently in progress and they’re a mix of fees, loans and free agents.

Alex Pritchard arrived shortly after that and make no mistake, a two-year deal for a player who has spent most of his career at a higher level represents an investment for a club in League One.

Sunderland are prepared to pay fees and I think they will do so again this summer, but probably along the lines of the Ross Stewart deal in January.

That was an investment for a third-tier club, done in the belief that Stewart’s value will grow considerably over the course of his contract.

My personal view is that if Sunderland don’t go up, it won’t be the budget to blame.

In terms of the young players, yes, I think the early weeks of the season are going to be a big test of the stated commitment to promoting academy talent.

It’s up to the likes of Dan Neil to show they are ready in these pre-season games but if they do so, it’s imperative they are given the chance to shine.

A balance of academy players and top-end quality for the division has to be the way forward.

Too many additions in the last couple of years have been somewhere in between.

No sign of massive investment in playing staff that the club needs. Why did new owners take over if they are not going invest? Immediate priority should be players not so many backroom staff?

It’s a balance, but I disagree that playing staff should come before the expense of everything else.

In my opinion, that’s a big reason why the club has ended up where it is.

It was beyond paramount that serious funding issues in the academy were addressed, before yet more talent departed for other clubs.

And the threadbare recruitment department inherited from the old regime was, in my view, one of the absolute key factors in the three failed attempts to win promotion.

Winning promotion this season is paramount, absolutely, and over the next few weeks we need to see the squad bolstered so that it is in a position to do so.

But I think the other investment has been vitally important.

In your opinion Phil how much control is Stewart Donald and others from the old regime still having over transfers and finances? Nothing has changed since the windows of last summer and January. New approach but still the same slow recruitment drive.

Honestly, not a great deal.

I think that there are valid questions to be asked over the structure of the club, in particular Juan Sartori’s return to the board and the repayment of parachute payment money from the previous regime.

The most recently released accounts certainly indicated that process is far from concluded.

In terms of recruitment and the summer budget, though, I think ultimately Kyril Louis-Dreyfus will be accountable for that.

He has made absolutely clear that the club will have to be sustainable in the long-term, and that investment will be in areas where there is the potential of a future return.

The board as a collective are of course ultimately accountable and responsible for the club’s direction, but I think by and large this is Louis-Dreyfus’ strategy.

I do think we’ll see a fairly significant change in approach this window, but clearly at the moment it’s hard to make a call on that when business has still been limited.

Hopefully the calibre of player required will arrive in the next couple of weeks.

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