Still work to do to fulfil Poyet’s plans

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet
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“NEXT Wednesday I need to have four new players.”

Gus Poyet knew exactly what he was doing when he made that headline-grabbing demand nine days ago.

It was like a petrol can to the embers of frustration burning among Sunderland supporters and it was Lee Congerton who was exposed to the ferocity of that heat.

Yesterday’s deadline was not met. Only one of the desired quartet were signed and sealed, although last season’s loanee Santiago Vergini is virtually over the line to follow Jack Rodwell through the doors.

But, despite only half the job being completed, the mutiny has been quelled – for now, at least.

The magnitude and impact of signing a player of Rodwell’s calibre has sparked a flurry of back-tracking from the paying public.

Rightly so too.

Despite Sunderland’s desperate need for new recruits – yes, ideally in good time for Poyet to work with them – Congerton can only be judged after what has been an odd summer of transfer business comes to an end.

Rodwell puts a huge tick in the “for” column next to the sporting director’s name.

However, the plaudits for signing the Manchester City midfielder won’t mask either Congerton or Poyet to the remaining holes in Sunderland’s squad.

Sunderland still need another three or probably four signings in the next three-and-a-half weeks before the transfer deadline on Monday, September 1.

The Fabio Borini saga (and yes, it can now officially be classed as a saga) will continue to overshadow Sunderland’s transfer business after three tiresome weeks without a resolution.

The word from Merseyside at the time Sunderland made their £14million bid was that Borini was keen to return to the Stadium of Light.

But, as the days have passed by, it has grown increasingly evident that Borini is dragging his heels to see how his place in the pecking order at Anfield develops.

Sunderland were always braced for that this summer.

Way back in May, the feeling in the corridors of the Academy of Light was that the club would face a battle to persuade Borini to leave the Liverpool limelight.

The Black Cats are not drawing a line under their pursuit yet and will continue to be patient for Poyet’s number one target.

But they are also drawing up contingency plans.

Chelsea’s Victor Moses is a name which continues to crop up on the Wearside rumour mill.

Even if Sunderland do sign Borini before the transfer deadline – and it may be a deal completed in the final throes of the window – Poyet is keen for another option out wide.

Poyet wants a winger with genuine pace and has realised that deficiency in Sunderland’s ranks ever since he arrived last October.

It’s not a new problem.

Martin O’Neill chased the fleet-of-foot Junior Hoilett two years ago, prior to the capture of Adam Johnson.

Given their paltry goal return so far during pre-season, Poyet is badly in need of a couple of extra options in those inside forward roles.

Despite the signing of Rodwell, he needs an extra body in the middle of the park too.

Poyet will routinely use a central midfield trio this season and, with Lee Cattermole or Liam Bridcutt operating in the holding role, that leaves Rodwell, Seb Larsson and Jordi Gomez competing for the two other spots.

With Alfred N’Diaye and El-Hadji Ba both heading for the exit door, that is not sufficient, unless Emanuele Giaccherini is permanently rebranded in the “number 10” spot, which seems unlikely.

The same applies to Poyet’s defensive ranks.

Vergini displayed his potential during the run-in after a “rabbit in the headlights” start to his Sunderland career, and will provide the welcome versatility of being comfortable at both centre-half and right-back.

But that’s still not sufficient back-up.

Valentin Roberge is the only other central defensive cover for John O’Shea and Wes Brown, while Vergini is the sole competition for full-backs Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt.

Poyet has already said that he wants an extra full-back capable of covering on both sides. After chasing Swansea’s Ashley Williams earlier this summer, another centre-half wouldn’t go amiss either, with both O’Shea and Brown in the final year of their contracts.

None of this comes cheap.

Sunderland have already shown a statement of intent by making their biggest individual outlay in two years by splashing out £10m on Rodwell.

The club will then equal its record transfer fee if the Borini deal is completed.

After such an outlay, it would be no surprise if a couple of the four players still required arrive on loan.

If Congerton can free up a few more quid by offloading the unwanted quartet of Danny Graham, Modibo Diakite, Cabral and David Moberg Karlsson, that will help, with both N’Diaye and Ba already on the verge of departing.

But there can be no let-up, no cigar lighting and no back-slapping yet.

Rodwell and the imminent Vergini signing only takes Sunderland over the halfway line for their summer business.

FOOTBALL League managers have formed an orderly queue to take Sunderland’s youngsters on loan after their impressive performances during pre-season.

Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper is the latest to join the line after expressing an interest in striker Mikael Mandron.

Doubtless, these academy products need to play regular first-team football, rather than be restricted to the underlying weaknesses of the Under-21 League.

But these loan spells need to start producing benefits, rather than Sunderland simply being a feeder club for the likes of Hartlepool and Carlisle.

Too many bright prospects – most notably Louis Laing – have come through the age groups at Sunderland post-Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback, without making the grade.

The talent is clearly there. But converting those two or three players every year who have a slim chance of playing Premier League football is another matter altogether.