Will Grigg, Ethan Robson and where incoming deals stand: Phil Smith's Sunderland AFC Q&A

There are just over 48 hours left to go in a crucial transfer window for Sunderland.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 12:11 pm

Phil Smith runs through what you can expect to see happen in his weekly Q&A….


Sunderland are working towards making two additions before the window shuts at 11pm on Friday.

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Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson is eager to do more business in the coming days

Phil Parkinson is particularly keen to add another option to his forward line, though any arrival would be a player capable of playing in one of the two attacking midfield roles behind the striker, rather than another orthodox number nine.

Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire have been excellent in those positions of late but Parkinson is eager to ensure any injury or dip in form does not derail his side’s progress and mean he has to rip up a template that is beginning to produce encouraging results and performances.

He does have cover, with Duncan Watmore and Elliot Embleton soon to return from injury, but confirmed on Tuesday that he would like one more.

Sunderland had a deal lined up in the first week of the window, but it has been delayed by the player’s current club being able to complete expected business of their own.

The Black Cats have been exploring other options in the meantime as they search for a breakthrough before the window closes.

The other position Parkinson wants cover for is left wing-back.

He admitted yesterday, however, that this is the trickiest position to fill.

Sunderland are eager to ensure they have adequate cover following the departure of Laurens De Bock at the start of the month, but they are equally keen to ensure that Denver Hume’s heartening progression is not blocked.

This is another area where Parkinson is hoping that his patience will yield a positive result.

Parkinson lined up a deal early in the window, but the move will not be sanctioned by the player’s parent club until terms are agreed on a new contract.

Another target is weighing up his options, with Championship clubs monitoring the situation.

Parkinson hopes for a breakthrough but also noted that should he be unsuccessful, he has the option of switching Luke O’Nien over to the left and bringing in Conor McLaughlin.

He also believes Gooch can operate effectively as a wing-back, but is understandably keen to avoid moving him away from a role where he is ‘flourishing’.

Sunderland’s business, then, is far from done.

Parkinson seems quietly confident that he will strengthen again but was eager to stress that it is not all in the club’s hands.


Many supporters were disappointed to see Burton Albion striker Liam Boyce join Hearts for a bargain fee last week, particularly when the 28-year-old went on to star on debut against Rangers.

Parkinson was asked on Tuesday about his interest and whether he had been frustrated with how it turned out.

He again insisted that Boyce had not been a target from the moment Kyle Lafferty signed, and it had been his decision to pursue that signing over that of Boyce.

At the start of the window, he had enquired about Boyce as he looked for cover and competition for Charlie Wyke.

Ultimately, he moved for Lafferty, believing that he not only offered the physical attributes he was looking for in a striker, but that his career suggested he was a player who might thrive on pressure and big stage a club like Sunderland offers.

He also acknowledged that being able to bring in Lafferty straight away, to work on his fitness and integration and the team shape, appealed.

At that stage, he could not be sure how a move for Boyce would work out and whether Lafferty would still be available later in the window. The Northern Irishman had lucrative offers from abroad.

Boyce does offer flexibility in that he can play out wide, but Parkinson is pursuing other targets to strengthen his wide forward positions (Antoine Semenyo, who he identified as having the pace and power he needs, is still at Bristol City).

So Parkinson moved on after Lafferty’s arrival and has said that three orthodox strikers is sufficient, particularly with Marc McNulty capable of playing that role.

He will not pursue another one.

Of course, the player who could change that situation is Will Grigg.

Given his struggles for regular football under Parkinson, it has been obvious throughout the window that a move away could be on the cards, but it has proved complex.

Sunderland do not want him to move (and certainly not on loan) to a League One rival, while there have been no bids from League Two appealing to both the player and club.

So as it stands, he is staying, and Parkinson held talks with him this week in which both agreed they were happy if that proves to be the case.

Grigg is down the pecking order as it stands but the manager is adamant that in the new system, he has a far better chance of succeeding.

He was also candid in acknowledging that should the right offer arrive, he will allow it.

He will not do so, however, unless he knows he can bring in another striker before the deadline shuts.


Robson has made a positive impression in training since returning from Grimsby, but has not been included in a matchday squad.

The arrival of Josh Scowen from QPR further increases his challenge in fighting his way in.

Robson is desperate to prove himself at Sunderland but with six months left on his deal, also sees regular senior football as the absolute priority.

It’s an entirely understandable stance and one Parkinson agrees with.

Parkinson, though, trialed him as a left wing-back in the behind-closed-doors game at the Academy of Light last Saturday. Robson impressed and even got on the scoresheet.

It now looks as if he will only sanction a loan if he gets the cover he wants in that position.


There has been little concrete interest in Aiden McGeady as of yet but Parkinson has said from day one of the window that he expects movement on that front to come late in the window.

Another player whose future remains uncertain is Marc McNulty.

Hibernian have been heavily linked with a move and while coy in discussing it, Jack Ross has certainly not ruled it out.

It seems unlikely that Parkinson will sanction the deal unless he lands that wide forward he is looking at, so McNulty is another player involved in the complex transfer chain that needs resolving in the next 48 hours.

Reading cannot recall him to sell him on unless Sunderland agree to it.