Chris Young’s Sunderland analysis: Ellis Short must let Dick Advocaat buy striker

Connor Wicvkham and Steven Fletcher in action for Sunderland against CdF Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.
Connor Wicvkham and Steven Fletcher in action for Sunderland against CdF Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.

It would be an enormous act of self-harm for Ellis Short to tighten the purse strings now, just as Sunderland’s squad is beginning to improve.

Last week’s double capture of Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul has improved the mood of both players and supporters, and on paper, should boost the calibre of this perennially struggling Sunderland side.

It’s difficult to argue against Sunderland needing a new striker


Lens clearly has plenty of pedigree after 30-odd caps for Holland and provides the injection of pace which it feels like Sunderland’s attack has lacked since the beginning of time.

Meanwhile, Kaboul, if fit (and the ‘if’ is the big question with him) is a proven Premier League performer with a combination of power, size and pace which Dick Advocaat was looking for as he overhauled Sunderland’s central defence.

But more is needed. There’s still not a lot of guile in that Sunderland midfield, while there are question marks over the threat posed by any of the four strikers available to Advocaat after last season’s paltry goal tally.

Short will surely make a few more quid available, while, of course, Sunderland still have the domestic loan market to use.

But don’t forget either that Advocaat and Lee Congerton could boost the transfer kitty themselves, if a few more players considered surplus to requirements are moved on.

After the departures of El Hadji-Ba and Santiago Vergini, Congerton will hope to arrange exits for saleable commodities, Valentin Roberge and Charis Mavrias, who have remained behind in the North East.

Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt still need to convince that they can make the grade in the Premier League, but they have thrived at Championship levels, where some suitors will surely be contemplating the pair as possibilities.

Tellingly, neither featured from the bench against Club de Futbol Pachuba on Saturday after they each only started once during Advocaat’s nine game tenure at the end of last season.

If Sunderland get a £1million-plus apiece, then it might have to be considered a prudent financial loss on the £2.5m which was invested in each of them.

But if Sunderland are going to make save some real money though, it might have to come by offloading one of their four frontmen.

It’s difficult to argue against Sunderland needing a new striker.

But it’s equally tough to imagine having five central strikers for the one position in a 4-3-3.

Connor Wickham is the only real member of the quartet who has the versatility to play in a wider role and are Sunderland genuinely going to sell the £8m frontman after he only penned a new contract in December?

Likewise, Jermain Defoe is unlikely to be offloaded just six months into his Sunderland career, particularly as his four goals last season contributed significantly to the club’s eventual survival.

Defoe has made it crystal clear that he doesn’t want to play on the left. He needs to be down the middle.

That leaves Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham, by far the most vulnerable of the quartet and each boasting just 12 months left on their Sunderland contracts.

Fletcher is the more saleable asset but is a better footballer and a better finisher. By contrast, Graham offers enormous amounts of physicality and effort, but doesn’t have the same quality of touch.

Surely one of the strikers has to go though, even if it depends on which one generates any concrete interest.