David Moyes may have found his Jermain Defoe replacement

Life on Wearside is becoming increasingly bleak for everyone connected with Sunderland right now, as their uncanny ability to mount a great escape seems to be the very quality evading the team this year. Though the Black Cats have managed to extend their number of lives in the Premier League over the past few years, they remain rooted to the bottom of the tree this time around.

There are problems running through the club at the moment, with redundancies announced even before their likely relegation into the Sky Bet Championship, though bitter rivals Newcastle United will tell you dropping down a division isn’t the worst thing in the world. Granted, the financial circumstances between the two parties are very different, though a club as big as Sunderland may prosper amongst England’s second tier and allow them regroup for the future.

Obviously, there’s a risk they could be caught up with the likes of Leeds United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic – the list goes on – though if they manage to keep a hold of manager David Moyes this summer, perhaps they could challenge towards the top end of the league.

What is clear, though, is the fact they would struggle to keep a hold of star striker Jermain Defoe, who surely won’t stick around if they indeed are relegated. Recently called back into the England set-up, the 34-year-old will have interested parties lining up to keep him in the proverbial Promised Land.

So, who should replace him? Well, despite his evergreen ability to score goals in the Premier League, Defoe’s age isn’t likely to command a huge fee and money is tight at the Stadium of Light as it is.

Clearly, they’re going to have to be clever about their moves in the market, which is why the fact Moyes was recently spotted watching Dundee United taking on Hibernian in the Scottish Championship seemed so interesting. While Neil Lennon’s Hibs are on course to make a return to the top flight north of the border at the end of the season, surely even a recently relegated Premier League side could compete financially with the Scottish Cup holders.

The most widely reported link to emerge from Moyes’ Tannadice trip was with on-loan defender Efe Ambrose, who has played in the Champions League with parent club Celtic and recently saw a move to Blackburn breakdown. However, one man who is certain to have caught his countryman’s eye is forward Jason Cummings.

I’ve previously written about the Hibees star and, with a connection to both Hibs and Newcastle United, I desperately hope the image of him sporting a red and white shirt on Wearside never appears, purely as a fan. Still, it’s easy to see why a move like this would make sense and, despite Lennon’s presence at Easter Road, surely Sunderland would be too hard to turn down, even in the Championship.

Cummings has to be one of the most clinical finishers of his age playing outside the English Premier League. Big praise for a man who has operated in Scotland’s second tier perhaps, though his record really isn’t anything to be sniffed at or looked upon lightly.

He has 68 career goals to his name already, more than the likes of Kris Boyd, Leigh Griffiths, Steven Fletcher and James McFadden had at his age. Clearly, the obvious argument against such a prolific record is the fact he’s played in the Scottish Championship. Though, rather interestingly, just 18 of his goals during his time in Leith have come against part-time teams. In fact, he has 32 strikes against Rangers, Hearts and other promotion-chasing teams in the Championship (as well as ones in the Premiership during cup ties) and certainly is a man for the big occasion.

Cummings is backed by a huge amount of self-belief, as previously discussed in another article, and can count himself unlucky not to be considered in Gordon Strachan’s latest Scotland squad. That’s not to say he is without his flaws, with his ridiculously immature handball in front of Moyes at Tannadice indicative of the other side of his game. He can often cut a stroppy figure when things aren’t going his way.

Replacing a bona fide Premier League goalscoring legend with Jason Cummings is obviously a huge downgrade for Sunderland. However, the situation they are currently in would suggest they don’t have the financial clout to go out and buy a Dwight Gayle or a Jonathan Kodija as Newcastle and Aston Villa did upon their respective relegations. If Sunderland do go down, they’ll have to think carefully about their transfer strategy in order to build a platform for long-term success.

Still, having struggled on the transfer front in recent years, Cummings could just be a masterstroke from Moyes.