In all aspects of Sunderland AFC, they have had a torrid few years. Once a regular in the Premier League, they’re now lingering in League One.
In two successive seasons, they have tried and failed to reach the Championship. This term, however, is starting to bring more positives. The Mackems are in the playoffs, have a new owner and are also in the final of the Papa John’s Trophy.
Under Lee Johnson, they’re also playing some eye-catching football. The previously maligned Charlie Wyke is the second top scorer in the division too.
With that in mind, promotion would surely be deserved for not only the hard work on the training ground, but also for the efforts behind the scenes in recent months.
It’s safe to say that proceedings at board level have been a shambles in recent years, though. Whether it was the £4m that Stewart Donald paid for Will Grigg or losing Josh Maja on the cheap, recruiting and selling has not been a strong point.
That was all too evident in 2019 when they missed out on boyhood Sunderland fan Marcus Maddison.
“Scoring goals is massive and Sunderland football club is where I started. Without them I wouldn’t be a footballer today,” he said after scoring against them in September of that very year.
Coincidentally, that came just months after the club failed to sign the attacker. Maddison was heading into the final year of his contract at Posh and as a result, the Black Cats wanted to take advantage of his club’s vulnerable situation.
That being said, the 27-year-old was still worth a pretty sizeable sum to Peterborough.
Richard Hill commented in the following months: “Yes, I had a conversation with Barry Fry and it was about all things football as our conversations are. On this occasion Marcus Maddison was mentioned and I was asked if there was any interest, and was informed that there was a buy out clause in his contract of £2.5m – I said that at that money he was not for me.”
Hill then admitted the club might try again if his contract did expire the following year. He didn’t join and instead he ended up at Hull. A move to Charlton followed and he’s now on loan at Bolton in League Two. Clearly, his career has not worked out the way he would have hoped.
For a period of time, Maddison looked like one of the best in the third tier – Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth supplemented that fact himself.
Although he’s now playing in the fourth tier, he would have been an incredibly valuable signing for Sunderland. After all, the creative maestro registered ten goals and 23 assists in the 2018/19 campaign.
It was a remarkable season for a man who would have been worth every penny to Sunderland. Just imagine a player of his quality feeding Wyke alongside Aiden McGeady. The latter has ten assists in just 14 matches this term so surely the goals will have flown in with the duo either side of Sunderland’s fearsome striker.
In the words of Bolton boss Ian Evatt, “Marcus is an extremely talented boy.” This is undoubtedly one that got away for the Mackems. Lee Johnson would have found him a dream.