Transfer windows can be a very frustrating time for football fans up and down the country; one signing can suddenly lighten up your life, where the failure to rubber stamp one of those “sagas” we’re all familiar with can leave you besides yourself with anxiety.
Sunderland’s success this time around is finely balanced.
There does appear to be good value in capturing Younis Kaboul, Jeremaine Lens, Adam Matthews and Seb Coates for a combined fee of around £14m. All the mentioned players should go straight into first team contention and each come with international pedigree. There’s no hiding the fact that there needs to be a creative midfielder touchdown at Ponteland Airport very soon, however, to make a decent transfer window become a good one.
It’s all fine margins.
The question of what kind of player is available is a tricky one. Lee Congerton can really earn his stripes in the next fortnight, that’s for sure. Attracting top players to Wearside has always been a bit of a problem for geographical reasons, unfortunately and that’s something that can’t be ignored.
That said, no amount of redevelopment in Sunderland City Centre is ever likely to persuade a player to reside in these parts ahead of somewhere like Yarm, Durham or Darras Hall, Northumberland.
A club like Sunderland needs to be sold on history – and if Congerton uses ours to his advantage then we could see another issue solved simultaneously.
What if he offers any potential new signing the number 10 shirt?
Connor Wickham had one little spell of thriving as a Black Cats player, firing Gus Poyet’s men to safety near the end of the 2013/14 season – and seemingly using the shirt number for inspiration. But the former Ipswich man hasn’t maintained such standards, playing out wide being the reason cited by many Sunderland fans.
Yet the truth is, the pressure of the number 10 shirt has always weighed down heavily on the shoulders of Wickham, with no amount of whey protein proving strong enough to prepare their muscular shape for its might.
It could be argued that no player since Super Kevin Phillips (above) has properly embraced the shirt, though there have been glimpses that some players could. Jordan Henderson excelled as a Sunderland player when he switched to the centre of the park and adopted the number, for example. The game against Wigan in April 2011 is a game etched into Wearside folklore because of the way Henderson took the game by the scruff of the neck; inspiring a depleted side with no centre forwards to a crucial 4-2 win. The ex-Farra student smashing the fourth in with his left foot will stay with many a Mackem for years.
He earned a big money move to Liverpool soon after and the rest is history for him.
Kieran Richardson’s winning free kick against Newcastle in 2008 was another moment of inspiration and it’s thought that the Aston Villa star often cites the number on his back that day as being the reason for the unfathomable amount of power built up to execute the famous strike.
But even before Ian Porterfield propelled the image of the Sunderland number 10 to national recognition by smashing in the winning goal of the 1973 FA Cup final, it was always something that meant so much to the people of what was a hard-working but limited industrial town. Patsy Gallagher was the yin to Raich Carter’s yan as Sunderland brought home the FA Cup in 1937.
And it wasn’t only elite standard players wearing the shirt who captured the hearts of the Mackem faithful. John Byrne famously scored in every round bar the final of the cup run in 1992 and Marco Gabbiadini is perhaps the most savoured number 10 after Super Kev himself. Eric Gates’ sidekick played most of his career in the second tier, most famously scoring on Tyneside in the 2-0 play-off semi-final win in 1990.
Valiant contributions from Stephen Elliot and Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson must also be noted.
So we could very well have the two birds with one stone scenario on SR5 this season. Relieve Connor Wickham of added pressure to become the player we hope he can be this summer by offering any potential new playmaker the number 10 shirt.
You’d hope Congerton et al wouldn’t need briefing on this.
Ha’way the lads.