Sunderland's next steps in the January transfer window assessed and explained after major breakthrough

Tony Mowbray had said on Friday that he felt and hoped the club were close to announcing some 'young, exciting signings'.

Though Pierre Ekwah would go on to feature for West Ham United U21s that evening (scoring and landing an assist), there was increasing confidence behind the scenes that the hard yards on a permanent deal had now been done.

Mowbray had explained in his pre-match press conference that Sunderland were trying to secure long-term signings and that made the deals hard to do as clubs are not going to let their talented players go easily. It takes time and a lot of quite complex negotiation. Ekwah's arrival is one such deal: Sunderland's initial investment is modest but if the move works well for player and club, West Ham United will benefit.

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Given his limited experience in senior football, Ekwah is another player whose integration Mowbray will carefully manage. Edouard Michut's progress and Dan Neil's outstanding form will allow him to be cautious, but it's a big boost for the head coach who wanted a dynamic midfielder who could a) offer cover for Corry Evans as a six and b) push Neil, Michut and Ba for minutes as an eight.

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Sunderland's clear priority right now is to secure more cover and competition for Ross Stewart, as their superb form and confidence could quickly be derailed by another injury.

It is well known that the club would relish the chance to bring Ellis Simms back to finish the season on Wearside, but the level of upheaval and uncertainty at Goodison Park right now means they can't take chances.

As such, they are one of a number of clubs who have made clear to Leeds United that they would like to sign Joe Gelhardt on loan.

Leeds United striker Joe Gelhardt

In his programme notes over the weekend, Chief Executive Angus Kinnear made clear that he was likely to leave before the end of the month.

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“[Georginio] Rutter's arrival will mean that we will be looking to make some outbound loans before the end of the transfer window,” Kinnear began.

“We believe that being more active in loaning out our emerging talent will be important in ultimately accelerating their ability to contribute to our first team."

Sources have indicated that Wigan Athletic remains the most likely destination for Gelhardt, as they have put a strong financial offer on the table and there is an emotional appeal for the player who initially left following the club's fall into administration.

Given Wigan's frontrunner status for the last week or so, Sunderland will almost certainly have other options they are pursuing but as it stands, they remain in this race.

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Mowbray's comments made clear last week that Ekwah was not the only long-term signing Sunderland were actively pursuing and he hinted that he expected late developments.

The Black Cats have been in talks over some of their longer-term striking targets this month, one of which is known to be Genk youngster Andras Nemeth. Nemeth, like Lille winger Isaac Lihadji, is out of contract in the summer.

That means Sunderland wouldn't necessarily get deals done this month, but the preference would of course be to allow them to settle in this season (Nemeth, it should be added, has interest from a lot of clubs).

It could be an exciting week ahead.