After succumbing to defeat against West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland are one of seven Premier League sides searching for their first win of the season. Having left the Hawthorns with their tails between their legs, the Black Cats fans’ cries for a new forward were amplified.
So Steve Bruce’s response will have done little to quell discontent after an abject display that mirrored many of last season’s shortcomings on the road. The Sunderland manager told the assembled press: “We have a few things in progress but nothing imminent and I have no bids in for players at the moment. Obviously we have two or three targets, but I have to balance the books. That’s fine, as managers we’re all having to do that. There’s been a cold wind blown through football and apart from a certain few clubs nobody is going mad in the transfer market.”
Ahead of tonight’s League Cup tie with Colchester United, Bruce knows that his side needs to build momentum. Saturday’s defeat was harder to swallow for the Sunderland manager after glancing at the run of games that follow. A trip to Wigan Athletic punctuates a run of games that sees Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United provide the opposition for the Black Cats. And with that in mind Bruce revealed that a strong line up would be chosen: “Michael Turner is available to us again as is Lee Cattermole and they will play. Titus Bramble, Simon Mignolet have had few games with us yet so they need to play so I will be putting out an experienced team.”
The Sunderland manager also hinted that Andy Reid could play just his fourth game of 2010 after numerous setbacks, and that loanee Danny Welbeck could be favoured having showed willing from the bench thus far. Whether that team will include summer signing Marcos Angeleri remains to be seen. The Argentine full-back arrived on Wearside struggling for fitness after missing most of last season with a cruciate ligament injury, but with Nedum Onuoha ineligible to face his parent club on Sunday, the time might be right to introduce Angeleri into the English game.
With only seven days to go time is against Bruce to finalise the squad he wants to march on till January with. He has his targets – Asamoah Gyan and Charles N’Zogbia have been long linked with a move to the Stadium of Light – but it is the removal of dormant personnel that owner Ellis Short seeks before sanctioning further spending – George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Teemu Tainio and David Healy, none of whom were Bruce’s buys, nor feature in his plans to establish Sunderland as a top-half side, yet would sit favourably on a list of top earners at the club. And because of that it is proving almost impossible for Bruce to find potential suitors for the quartet. Ferdinand has had a number of Italian clubs rumoured to want to borrow him for a season, whilst Healy and Tainio have been playing reserve team football since returning to pre-season.
If the situation remains then Bruce’s hands are tied. The former Wigan and Birmingham City manager is a veteran of ‘wheeling and dealing’ having used this method in the transfer market at his previous clubs, but something will have to give. Failing to attract the man Bruce sees as Kenwyne Jones’ replacement would leave fans far more disillusioned than the run of 14 games without a win last season, as it would isolate Darren Bent amongst a trio of forwards still learning the ropes, particularly at Premier League level. Sunderland have gathered sufficient income from player sales this summer, with perhaps UEFA’s impending new financial regulations in mind rather than investing in the squad. But as the transfer window is pulled closer, the club may have to gamble and postpone reducing the wage bill until January. Otherwise the Black Cats manager may just run out of lives.