The transfer business that Sunderland still want to do explained and where things currently stand

Sunderland are still looking to add significant quality to their squad before the window closes at the end of this month.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 3:30 pm

Though the Black Cats started their League One campaign with an impressive 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic, there are still some key positions vacant.

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman told The Echo last week that he was confident Sunderland would get the additions they needed, but conceded it had been a challenging market.

He stressed there would be no compromise on quality, a message reiterated by Lee Johnson last week.

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Bailey Wright. Picture by FRANK REID

Here, Phil Smith outlines the key areas of the pitch where the Black Cats are still very much active in the market, and explains how the transfer chain could play out between now and the end of deadline day.

LEFT BACK

One addition in this position is an absolute must, and two could yet become a necessity.

Denver Hume's contract talks have taken longer than anyone had anticipated, complicated by the severity of the hamstring injury he sustained in the play-off semi final.

That has to an extent taken the pressure off the talks, as there was never any realistic prospect of him being fit for the start of the campaign.

That is changing now, though, as Sunderland know time is ticking if they do need to make another addition.

Speakman says he is happy to give Hume, a 'cracking professional', time and space to make the right decision and has resisted the urge to set hard deadlines, but supporters can expect the matter to be settled in the near future.

While Dan Neil has shown his talent can be trusted, the Black Cats want him to be a midfield option.

Dennis Cirkin is the top target for the initial slot, with Spurs open to selling a talented youngster who understandably feels there is no clear pathway to the first team as it stands.

Sunderland have made encouraging progress but there remains work to be done.

RIGHT BACK

Carl Winchester has proved a steady operator through pre season and on opening day, but the minor injury he picked up against Wigan was a reminder of the need to strengthen in this position.

It's one of the areas where Sunderland have placed significant bids for players they believe could be major assets, including Exeter City's Josh Key and Nottingham Forest's Jordan Gabriel.

Though they have not publicly confirmed the Black Cats as the bidders, they have said that the offers they have received have fallen short of their valuation.

Gabriel's situation is complicated by Forest's lack of other senior options in that position. The 22-year-old started on the opening day in a 2-1 defeat to Coventry City.

Blackpool, where he played on loan last season, also have a strong interest in a permanent deal.

There are other options on Sunderland's shortlist, and it remains to be seen whether Johnson wants two specialists for his squad, or whether the likes of Winchester, Luke O'Nien and Kenton Richardson give him adequate cover.

Ollie Younger has also played there in the past.

CENTRE BACK

Johnson has publicly confirmed that he is still very much in the market for another centre back.

While Tom Flanagan has struck up an encouraging early partnership with Callum Doyle, cover is short as Arbenit Xhemajli is still working his way back from a major injury.

Sunderland have accelerated their switch to a new style in pre-season and they want another option who can add more speed and composure in possession.

There has been significant interest in Bailey Wright; a deal that will not be sanctioned unless such a replacement is secured.

Even then, both Johnson and Speakman have been clear that a departure is far from a foregone conclusion.

Both rate his defensive abilities and significantly, his off-field leadership.

STRIKER

Ross Stewart has had an excellent start to the season but Sunderland know that they need both cover and competition to last the course of the full campaign.

Johnson rates Aiden O'Brien, but sees him primarily as someone who operates just off the main striker. That is certainly where he has played his best football for the club to date.

While Will Grigg looks increasingly likely to stay and see out the final year of his contract, the Black Cats want another option to ensure that they can replicate Stewart's capacity to stretch the opposition defence with those runs into the channel.

Daniel Jebbison is a key loan target. The 18-year old from Sheffield United remains largely untested at senior level but has the pace and athleticism to offer real competition to Stewart.

The Black Cats soon hope for a response from the Blades, with Doncaster Rovers and Burton Albion also keen. While Sunderland offer an obvious stature, injuries to key strikers at those other two clubs mean they can perhaps offer more regular gametime.

Beerschot, the Belgian club affiliated Sheffield United, are also thought to be in the mix.

Sunderland are believed to have other options should Jebbison head elsewhere.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS?

While Johnson has outlined that he wants the four deals explained above, he has also said that he expects there to be bargains on offer in the closing days of the window.

Sunderland will be monitoring those, right across the pitch.

While a number of the club’s academy players are currently offering crucial support to the senior squad, any additional incomings could yet lead to some loan moves.

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