It’s fair to say that under Stewart Donald, Sunderland’s transfer strategy hasn’t been particularly great.
They’ve lost a host of academy stars including the likes of George Honeyman and Josh Maja, while the recruitment has been rather shambolic. Thus, supporters will be hoping that new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is far more adept in the market.
Of course, the brunt of transfers will now be sorted out by Kristjaan Speakman but it will be up to the owner to provide the funds and then green light any move.
One of their first assignments will be to sign someone capable of stretching the play and scoring goals. Certainly, that’s what new manager Lee Johnson wants in his side.
The tip of the iceberg in terms of Donald’s recruitment was Will Grigg, someone capable of stretching teams but unfortunately not forthcoming in terms of goals. The Black Cats signed him for £4m in January 2019 but just months later missed out on a sublime free transfer.
The player in question is Lawrence Shankland, a striker now plying his trade for Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership. The Scotland international admits that Sunderland watched him in action but for some reason, a deal wasn’t offered.
That was a colossal mistake from Donald because with the Mackems struggling for goals, all of their problems would have been solved with Shankland.
The 25-year-old is as natural as they come in front of goal and surely would have set the Stadium of Light on fire. In the last two years, he has scored 65 goals, bagging 34 in 2018/19 and then following that up with 28 last term.
He only has three goals this season but if he’d found that sort of prior form in the north-east, promotion surely would have been on the cards.
After all, Grigg has only scored eight in his entire Sunderland stay – Shankland is clearly better at this point in their respective careers.
Of course, we’re looking at this in hindsight, but it was clearly a huge howler not to offer him a contract when he was a free agent in the summer of 2019.