Sunderland can't afford to stand still in the transfer market amid ongoing takeover uncertainty - Stewart Donald MUST back Phil Parkinson
“It’s about getting ourselves into a position where we go from a team that got 85 points last season to a team that gets 100 points next season.”
That’s Sunderland owner Stewart Donald, speaking in the aftermath of the play-off final defeat to Charlton Athletic last season.
He was addressing a deflated fanbase, one whom had quickly realised that this League One adventure wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
The facade presented by the new ownership was beginning to strip away and the club’s long stream of problems were quickly becoming exposed.
The promise of a 100-point season was supposed to galvanise the supporters. We go again, and all that jazz.
At the time, perhaps it did that. Many, though, recognised the fallacy of such a brash statement straight away. If they didn’t then, they soon would.
For it has quickly become apparent that when it comes to the current ownership, talk is cheap.
We’ve been promised a Borussia Dortmund model, before seeing several youngsters - the club’s future generation - sold.
Concerns over finances, the future of the academy, the list goes on and on.
Donald in recent days reaffirming a commitment to sell but then slapping an eye-watering £37.6million price tag on the club.
As things stand, no deal is close so the planning for next season and summer transfer business has to continue, though the events of the past few days also saw Richard Hill and Tony Coton depart.
A major rethink and restructure of the club’s recruitment model less than 10 days before the transfer window opens.
Hardly ideal preparation but few will mourn the departures of Hill and Coton. Jim Rodwell, Phil Parkinson and Donald now leading the recruitment until those roles are filled.
A big improvement on the recruitment side of the football business is high on most fans’ wish-list.
The business done last summer didn’t reflect that kind of ambition/promise of a 100-point season.
A fee was spent on one player, with George Dobson arriving for a low six-figure sum.
Club captain George Honeyman was sold, with the rest of the Black Cats’ incoming summer business consisting of free transfers.
Sunderland’s summer-long search for a left-back went down to deadline day, when Leeds United outcast Laurens De Bock eventually arrived on Wearside. He left after just ten appearances, only half of which came in the
league. Not exactly the kind of signing a 100-point team makes, is it?
The same mistakes cannot be made this summer.
A clear, coherent recruitment vision is needed - and that comes from the top.
Uncertainty reigns and Donald is looking to sell but that cannot distract from the business that needs to be done this summer, while the club also waits for news on salary cap proposals.
Will Phil Parkinson be backed to bring in the players he wants, those he feels can seal that elusive promotion to the Championship?
Or will he be forced to settle for alternative options, those who ‘will do’ for the short-term?
In truth, it would be no surprise if Sunderland - and indeed the vast majority of League One - spent little to no money on transfer fees this summer given the vast number of free agents currently available and the new financial pressures facing clubs.
But it’s about ensuring that money is spent the right way. It’s about giving Parkinson the opportunity to bring in the players he wants, and making a concerted effort to get number one targets over the line.
It’s also about enabling Sunderland to act swiftly. While there is no need to panic just yet the Black Cats need to be able to move quickly to secure key targets when the opportunity presents itself.
Timing is everything this summer, and the ilk of players Sunderland should be - and you would hope, are - targeting will have no shortage of offers.
Take the example of Tom Flanagan. Parkinson’s comments on the centre back recently read like a plea to the owners. He said he felt the defender was asking for fair terms, and called on both parties to try and get a deal done before it was too late.
The same message could arguably be gleaned from Bailey Wright’s claims over his future too. If Sunderland aren’t prepared to act quickly to move quickly, both players could easily secure a move elsewhere.
Players like Flanagan and Wright are proven entities. Yes, they will come at more of a cost than alternatives but they are the type of signings Sunderland will need to drive them forward.
For with no disrespect to De Bock, Jimmy Dunne, Declan John and the cacophony of unsuccessful loan and short-term signings we’ve seen over the last 24 months, Sunderland cannot go down this path again.
There are only so many plasters you can stick on a playing squad before they begin to peel away. We saw that last season and the season before. Now, it has to stop.
Sunderland have to look towards the future. The cycle of short-termism in the transfer market needs to cease. Yes, the immediate aim is to be promoted - but that can only be done by a club that adopts a more long-term vision to things.
Sunderland fans hope that will be under the stewardship of new owners.
But until that day, then the only way Sunderland can ensure they do that is by Donald - while he remains owner - walking the walk and backing Parkinson with the squad he needs to win promotion.