In a recent Sunderland Echo article there was short quote from Paolo di Canio which gives an indication on the financial situation at the club, which determined much of the summer transfer activity and the supposed “revolution”:
“We have to be honest, at the end of the transfer market we couldn’t spend any more money and in Borini we were able to loan a player with the characteristics I had asked for”.
It seems clear to me that our planned transfer policy this summer was resting on an early sale of individuals taking up a fair proportion of the wage budget – in particular Lee Cattermole, Phil Bardsley and Stephane Sessegnon. The late allowance of Sessegnon to go to a rival could be perhaps an as of yet rare occurrence of a “panic sale”, which may well become not so unusual as clubs struggle to adjust to the new fair play rules. As it was, the stuttered courting of Charis Mavrias, Gino Peruzzi and Tom Huddlestone shows that we couldn’t spend without selling. For a football punter this may seem like a risky strategy given that we had what was widely accepted as a poor squad at the beginning of the summer, but to a businessman knowing that a wage bill of over £52m per annum will lead to sanctions in the very near future, it makes sound economic sense.
I was of the opinion late last season that selling a number of players, as some fans were suggesting was needed, would not be easy and we would need a more manageable approach. In the quite humiliating u-turn on Cattermole after stripping him of captaincy and squad number, and Bardsley’s grovelling apology as soon as the transfer window closed, there’s some degree of reality here. Paolo’s open statement that we needed an Englishman in the centre of midfield seemed an obvious piece of bait for Huddlestone (although now it personally wouldn’t surprise me if he was suggesting Craig Gardner who seems to fit Di Canio’s ethic of a player who doesn’t upset the order of the system), so his move to Steve Bruce’s Hull City tells us that our ability to stretch for players was not as great as some would have hoped. What’s worse, it was newly promoted clubs we were losing out to.
The worry is clubs such as Norwich, Swansea and Southampton, clubs which should be considered our rivals in the league, have been freer to spend and look (at this point in time, at least) to be managing and spending wisely. Sunderland, who have been in the Premier League a while without creating much of a fuss, are left struggling to offload unwanted players sitting on a high proportion of the wage charts, and are only able to improve the squad with an occasional big signing (for this summer see only Emanuele Giaccherini), the odd cheap acquisition, young prospects and loan deals. After all of the talk of a “revolution” our real position, what we can do and where we can go, is looking clearer.