Sunderland must be prepared to look further than the domestic market to correct their failings, argues Mark Douglas.
YOU only have to look at Ellis Short’s previous January dealings to see Sunderland – as a rule – don’t really ‘do’ the January transfer window.
Barring the signing of Stephane Sessegnon which had been set up long before the turn of the year, the most spending Short has ever sanctioned is £2 million.
Even when he was prepared to back his man last year, caution got the better of the Black Cats and two loan signings were the height of their January ambitions.
It is little wonder the Texan feels that way, given his bete noire is bluffers.
Short prefers to be told it straight and, as we have learned from bitter experience, there is nothing straightforward about the January transfer window which is the ultimate chance for opportunists to make a quick buck.
Such are Sunderland’s concerns, though, they have little option but to invest in January.
The Black Cats’ status is far from critical at the moment but they are close enough to the relegation zone – and have been all season – for it to have become clear further recruitment is required.
Martin O’Neill has always said as much.
He is a cautious man in his public utterances and made it very clear in the immediate aftermath of signing Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher more would be required to turn Sunderland into a force at the top end of the Premier League table.
What he might not have anticipated is injuries, suspensions and a chronic lack of confidence would force his Black Cats to look at strengthening simply to keep their heads above water in the division.
The priority comes in midfield and defence, where Sunderland have come up short at various points.
The fact Craig Gardner and Jack Colback have been shunted into emergency defensive duties on too many occasions says a lot and the Wearsiders have needed full-backs for as long as they’ve been in the Premier League.
However, it is the engine room where the Black Cats have been missing that sense of attacking brio and invention – almost for as long as Roy Keane led them into the Premier League.
It is a situation which probably would have been addressed if O’Neill had managed to sign Mohammed Diame, who was one of his top targets in the summer. Instead, the Black Cats boss signed a winger and a striker, but now is the time for balance. What Sunderland need now is some imagination in their transfer dealings.
Not since Stephane Sessegnon’s capture in January 2011 have they signed a foreign-based player and their scouting operation is in danger of being left behind by cuter clubs.
When Steve Bruce arrived there was much talk of exploiting his knowledge of foreign markets but forays into South American flat-lined, with Cristian Riveros and Paolo Da Silva unable to make an impact. The less said about the lesser-spotted Marcos Angeleri, the better!
However, these failures should not dissuade Sunderland, who have been paying considerable domestic premiums of late.
Newcastle’s Gallic voyage of discovery has been well-documented but there are other clubs beginning to pick gems from foreign leagues.
Swansea have taken Michu, Jonathan de Guzman and Jose Manuel Flores from La Liga, while Aston Villa nicked Christian Benteke from Belgium.
Sunderland, by rights, should be operating in similar spheres.
The club pays well, it is ambitious and it can offer huge crowds at a state-of-the-art stadium and training facility – so why are they sticking to the domestic market?
Players in: none.
Players out: Graham Kavanagh (released), Ross Wallace (released), El-Hadji Diouf (£2,000,000), Pascal Chimbonda (released).
Money made: £2,000,000.
Players in: Matt Kigallon (£1,000,000), Benjani (loan).
Players out: None.
Money spent: £1,000,000.
Players in: Stephane Sessegnon (£6,000,000), Sulley Muntari (loan),
Players out: Darren Bent (£18,000,000), David Healey (released), Paolo Da Silva (£2,000,000), Andy Reid (£500,000).
Money made: £15,000,000.
Players in: Sotirios Kyrgiakos (loan), Wayne Bridge (loan).
Players out: none.
Money made: £0.