Sunderland have seen their fair share of transfer activity this summer, with plenty of comings and goings to and from Wearside. Since Niall Quinn’s tenure as Chairman of the club began, there has been a continuous influx of players parallelled by copious expenditure.
Portsmouth’s financial blunders have been exhibited to the footballing world and whilst some replicate the frivolous spending habits that account for Pompey’s inevitable demise, Ellis Short and Co. have tightened their belts in the hope to steer the club from falling into such disastrous waters.
Black Cat’s manger Steve Bruce has seemingly matched the clubs ambitions to stabilise finances by taking advantage of loan moves, free transfers, undertaking many shrewd business deals, some of which involved taking very bold decisions.
Sunderland have managed their transfer budget through sales of players and the removal of dead wood from the wage bill. Here are the additions and the subtractions from Steve Bruce.
Ahmed El Mohamady (ENPPI, Loan)
Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes, £1.5million)
Titus Bramble (Wigan Athletic, undisclosed – estimated £1million)
Asamoah Gyan (Rennes, £13.2million)
John Mensah (Lyon, Loan)
Simon Mignolet (Sint-Truiden, undisclosed – estimated £2million)
Nedum Onuoha (Manchester City, Loan)
Cristian Riveros (Cruz Azul, Free transfer)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United, Loan)
Lorik Cana (Galatasaray, £5million)
Jamie Chandler (Darlington, Released)
Marton Fulop (Ipswich Town, undisclosed – estimated £750,000)
Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City, £8million)
Matt Kilgallon (Middlesbrough, Loan)
Daryl Murphy (Celtic, undisclosed – estimated £1.5million)
Jean Yves M’voto (Oldham, Loan)
Nyron Nosworthy (Sheffield United, Loan)
Roy O’Donovan (Coventry City, Released)
Oumare Tounkara (Oldham, Loan)
Martyn Waghorn (Leicester City, £3million)
Teemu Tainio (Ajax, Released)
Two games into the season, with only a point to their name following an erratic home draw to Birmingham and a defeat away to newly promoted West Brom, Sunderland’s ‘sensible’ summer spending was beginning to show. Players weren’t clicking, and what’s more, the team showed signs that they weren’t adjusting to life without Kenwyne Jones.
After confirming that the Trinidadian was on his way out from the Stadium of Light, Steve Bruce held up his hands to admit he had achieved all he could with the striker:
‘There has always been a frustration with me, and I think with supporters who have watched Kenwyne, that you see an abundance of talent but it has not come out often enough for us for whatever reason.’
Such talk caused speculation that Steve Bruce had a successor lined up. £8million was a considerably a low transfer fee compared to the “£20million” offer tabled by Tottenham a year and a half back, especially for a first team striker that was to be sold to a rival club. The deal was confirmation of Bruce’s power over his squad and was also a sign that the Black Cats boss was not afraid to gamble.
As a sort of prelude to the Jones embargo, the Sunderland boss completed the daring move of Titus Bramble from Wigan. Bramble had been a shining light for the Latics, winning the club’s accolade for the player of the season on two occasions. He has long since shrugged off his days of low confidence and poor focus from Sunderland’s bitter rivals, Newcastle United, which earned him the alias Titus ‘Shambles’ on Wearside.
However, it was for this stigma and former links with the enemy, which would cause outrage amongst a minority of fans. The fact that the defender was bought at the ridiculously cheap price of £1million alluded this cynical section of hardcore supporters who moaned of mistakes and humiliation to signing a former ‘Mag,’ who’s calamity errors supplied a source of humour and bating.
Nevertheless, Bruce was never to be intimidated by the fans:
“At the end of the day, Sunderland fans want the same as me and the same as Titus Bramble – which is success for this club. And if Titus shows – as I think he will – that he can make us better, then I don’t think supporters will have a problem accepting him.”
This risk has paid off three games into the season with Bramble being amongst the best performers of the squad. Sunderland’s third game at home to Manchester City arrived just on time with the closing of the transfer window closely following. Steve Bruce’s side, with the exception of some nervy first half defending that could have proven costly, performed valiantly to take all three points against Mancini’s jewel encrusted team of all stars.
This win provided a much needed breather for Sunderland, giving them the opportunity to do business in the transfer window in the knowledge that they have the makings of a good team.
Simon Mignolet and El-Mohamady struggled in their first two Premier League games, and though it ‘s too soon to be singing and dancing about the pair, they certainly upped their game for Man City. Instead of flapping incompetently at the ball, Mignolet grew in confidence as the game went on to make competent instinctive decisions and a couple of impressive reflex saves. El-Mohamady ran at the City defence, unafraid to take on opponents and lived somewhat up his nickname ‘the Egyptian Beckham’ by delivering a few quality crosses.
Following the World Cup, the proposition of Cristian Riveros playing in the red and white stripes of Sunderland excited many of the appropriate contingent. It’s fair to say that Bruce was a happy man to pick up the Paraguayan on a free from Cruz Azul, after being quoted £12million to sign the midfielder in the past. The Sunderland faithful will have to wait patiently to see the best from Riveros.
Lorik Cana departed at the price that was paid for his services, and though his loss might not be grieved too much on Wearside, the fact that he was lured to a Champions League team without a profit made in the process is cause for disappointment. Lee Cattermole deservedly picked up the captain’s armband left by Cana, though his temperament is still concerning and proved to be costly just 45 minutes into the new season.
Fans were disheartened by Niall Quinn’s comments, as the Irishman exclaimed: “I will not panic in the last week of the window.” They didn’t have to wait long before faith was restored as Sunderland confirmed the signing of Asamoah Gyan from Rennes for £13.2million. It’s big money for a player that is unproven at club level, but the striker impressed with his three goals in the World Cup.
The Ghanian had been on Bruce’s radar since his managing days at Wigan therefore instilling the hope that Gyan was not a panic buy. The sale of promising youngster Martyn Waghorn to Leicester for £3million, a long with the sales of other players clogging up the wage bill, helped provide the necessary finances that went towards the signing of Gyan.
If the new faces can gel quickly to keep up the momentum from Sunderland’s important win over Man City, the team do have the quality to push into the lucrative top half of the league. Patience might be called on once again by Bruce, but his squad has more depth than last season to avoid the catastrophic ‘three months without a win’ from last year.
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