Sunderland transfer news: Why Alex Neil is 'optimistic but realistic' as new season nears
Alex Neil says he is 'optimistic but realistic' about the Championship campaign as he pushes more breakthroughs in the transfer market.
Sunderland still have a significant amount of work to do and with seven league games to be played before the window shuts next month, Neil is eager to avoid giving rivals a headstart.
The head coach added that he is hopeful that Sunderland will be able to make at least one addition before Coventry City's visit to the Stadium of Light on Sunday lunchtime, but reiterated that is largely out of the club's hands.
Sunderland saw loan target Troy Parrott join Preston North End on Monday before their 1-1 draw with Hartlepool United.
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“When it comes to getting players in, then myself and everyone at the club that is dealing with transfer matters can only push it as far as we can push it," Neil said.
"That’s what we’re currently trying to do. Naturally, we want to try to add before the weekend, and we hope that one or two of those run their course, and we manage to get them in. But I won’t be spending all my time worrying about that if I can’t affect it.
"My main priority is to get the lads that we’ve currently got onto the training pitch, and get us ready for the first game. If we can get bodies in, then that will naturally help us.
"We’ve got seven games between now and the end of the window, and we certainly don’t want to be giving any teams games head start by being under-strength. That’s something we’re fully aware of.
"It’s something we discussed before the play-off final, and then more intently ever since we were promoted. It’s not lost on us. I don’t want people thinking we’re sitting on our backsides just hoping somebody walks through the door.
"There’s a lot of work going into it, but it’s certainly not straightforward."
Sunderland's new arrivals will also likely need time to get up to match fitness after their arrival, which Neil conceded would be an issue in the opening weeks of the season.
He stressed again, however, that he was pleased with the progress of the players he does have in the building.
“We had those problems in January," Neil said. I inherited them when I came in the building, a couple of lads had come in and had no minutes for over six months.
"You’re trying to get them up to speed, and you’re not wanting to break them down even though you’re looking for a performance out of them. That was a really difficult balancing act.
"Fortunately, with the quality we’ve got, I think you can get away with that in League One. You will not get away with that in the Championship. I’ve been in that league for six or seven years and it’s a tough, tough league. If you’re not at it, or you’re not ready, you’re going to suffer.
"It’s right for us to be optimistic, but it’s right for us to be realistic as well."