With Sunderland’s continuing pre-season, transfer rumours are in full bloom and with visa applications still in the post, things could not look any more different than last season’s build up.
Steve Bruce has made some, well… er…. different (there’s that word again) signings. Well liked for his cataclysmic calamity displays in the Newcastle United central defence in the not too distant past, Titus Bramble has signed from Wigan for what is understood to be around £1million.
It may sicken a few, surprise many but it will certainly confuse the majority of Sunderland fans. With the club supposedly still on the verge of signing John Mensah on another year-long loan, and with five other players who play (and of who at least three are more capable in) the same position, the Titus Bramble transfer seems an unnecessary one.
Navigating away from the bazaar to focus on the positives, you have to look at the additions of goal keeper Simon Mignolet, full back Marcos Angeleri, winger Al-Muhammadi and central midfielder Cristian Riveros to the squad. The latter made an impressive display at this years world cup for Paraguay, claiming his place on the score sheet with a goal against Serbia.
When comparing such transfers to those of last season, the excitement is quickly extinguished. Bruce added Darren Bent, Frazier Campbell, Michael Turner, John Mensah and Lee Cattermole to last years team. Lorik Cana came, and then he left to much disappointment of Sunderland fans, with the club failing to make a profit on the £5million that was paid for him.
Of course fans have to hold reasonable expectations, in that there won’t always be the vast amounts of money to spend that were there in previous years. Yet there is a distinct difference in the quality of player being brought in. Niall Quinn’s plan was always to establish Sunderland as a Premier League team, and then to push on from there. It seems the club could be happy settling with mediocrity.
Another worrying factor lies in the inability to sign players that have signed for newly promoted Newcastle and Championship side Bristol city respectively. Though they are probably no big loss, Sol Campbell and the injured Dan Gosling favoured Tyneside over Wearside, and David James oddly chose the Championship over another six months or year in the Premier League. Even if money was the decider in these deals, surely Sunderland’s recent form and managerial stronghold would serve as an attraction.
Ongoing from last season, Bruce looks set to continue bringing youth players through to the first team. Jordan Henderson and David Meyler both had successful campaigns last year with the former establishing his first team place on a regular basis. Steve Bruce has rejected an offer from Hull to loan Martyn Waghorn, who spent last season on loan to Leicester City, clearly citing him as a prospect for the first team in the Daily Mail:
“The kid was outstanding on loan last season and now I think
that 70 per cent of the Championship would like to take him.
“I have said that his future is with us this year and nothing has changed.
I wouldn’t have thought I would be loaning him out this season.”
This conscious effort to involve the youngster may have to do with the new squad regulations introduced by the Premier League the 2010/11 campaign. A new rule states that each squad should contain at least eight home grown players out of the twenty five that are to be registered by the end of each transfer window.
This is by no means bad news for Sunderland considering the amount of local players that have turned into fan favourites. Most recent examples are Michael Gray and Martin Smith.
Since Niall Quinn’s reign as chairman, Sunderland have surprised with last minute transfers that include Djibril Cisse and Michael Turner. But just maybe the fact that the team now has a player allocated to each position; the first team untouchables are now having to look over their shoulders, not at new signings, but at the talent available through the youth rankings; or maybe the manager has faith in players that are yet to show their full worth signal a steady progress in the aspiring football club.
Nevertheless, with the more clubs coming into money (Man City, Birmingham, West Ham,) the pressure is on for Sunderland to make something happen before it is too late.
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