Chris Coleman finally landed a new centre-forward last night, just moments before the transfer window closed.
Middlesbrough 22-year-old Ashley Fletcher has joined on a loan deal until the end of the season in a much needed boost for the Sunderland boss.
Coleman had spoken of the absolute necessity to secure a new striker after the departures of loanee Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan early in the window, but suffered countless frustrations in what he himself described as a ‘brutal’ month.
A deal for Jonathan Walters fell through due to injury, likewise Lukas Nmecha, who would end the month a part of Pep Guardiola’s firs-team plans at Manchester City.
Even on the final day there was a frantic scramble for the finish line.
A number of moves failed to come to fruition with Fletcher and Swansea City’s Oli McBurnie emerging as the late targets.
Sunderland at one stage believed they had convinced McBurnie to make the move, with a deal agreed, only for Barnsley to pip them to the post. Paul Heckingbottom’s side had agreed a deal in the summer only for it to fall through at the last minute.
Attentions turned to Fletcher but time was against Sunderland.
Tony Pulis had considered loaning out the former West Ham player – signed from the Hammers for £6.5million only last summer – earlier in the window and Sunderland were keen, but the young striker looked to have convinced Pulis that he had a part to play in the final stages of the season.
Coleman’s fellow Welshman softened his stance at the crucial moment and Sunderland were just, just, able to get the deal done.
Will it be enough?
The pressure on a young and still inexperienced trio of strikers – Fletcher joins Josh Maja and Joel Asoro – will be immense and Coleman will almost certainly need Kazenga LuaLua and Aiden McGeady to chip in with contributions in the final third.
Coleman made no secret of his desire to add an experienced face up front after watching his side flounder against Birmingham City and it is debatable to what extent Fletcher solves that problem.
He does, however, add some crucial height and strength to the front line.
“Ash has experience at this level and in the Football League. He’s played for big clubs and in big games,” Coleman said of the player who hit eight goals on loan for Barnsley in a six-month loan in 2016.
“He’s a physical presence and a handful for defenders. More importantly he wants to come here, progress and fight with us.”
The Sunderland boss was also relieved to add keeper Lee Camp to his squad after pushing through a loan deal from Cardiff City.
A deal for Andy Lonergan collapsed midway through deadline day and Leicester City rebuffed a move for Eldin Jakupovic, who emerged as a target when fears about the Lonergan deal first surfaced.
Camp has not played any football this season but brings rich experience and will likely arrive as first choice.
“Lee is a huge personality who has been there and done it at this level. He’s an experienced goalkeeper and has been here before with Rotherham, so knows what it takes to get us results.”
Jason Steele came close to leaving the club, but a loan deal to Derby fell through at the last minute, with the Rams changing the terms of the deal and leaving both player and club in limbo.