DIRECTOR of football Lee Congerton believes that despite a quick start to summer recruitment, Sunderland’s work in the transfer market could go all the way to the wire.
Congerton and head coach Gus Poyet have wasted no time bringing in new faces with the swift arrivals of Costel Pantilimon, Jordi Gomez and Bill Jones.
But Congerton points out much work lies ahead in restructuring a squad which has shed Keiren Westwood, Craig Gardner, Oscar Ustari, Jack Colback, Phil Bardsley and loanees Ondrej Celustka, Santiago Vergini, Fabio Borini and Ki Sung-Yueng.
“We are trying our best, working every day and hopefully before the season starts we have our squad together,” said Congerton.
“But given we haven’t got vast amounts of money it will probably go to the last day of the transfer window.
“Other teams are trying to improve just as we are and we have to start replacing the likes of Ki and Fabio before we are even on a level footing – so we have a lot of work to do.”
Congerton insists that he will be at pains to avoid a repetition of last season where a dozen new players arrived and just as many left, leaving the club floundering as it tried to adjust.
But he also acknowledged that the number of new arrivals this summer could still be substantial.
“I want to say ‘no’ to a dozen players,” he said.
“But any fan would say we need a left back, a centre-half, midfield players, we need to replace Fabio, replace a centre forward maybe, and suddenly the figures are going up again.
“But we need to improve the quality of the starting XI – of the squad too – but first of all we need to have a starting XI that is competitive week in week out in the Premier League.
“So we do need new players but the priority is quality – I don’t want to sign players just for the sake of it.”
The recruitment of Sunderland’s three Bosmans reflects a clear desire to bring in experienced players who know all about life in the Premier and Congerton says that policy will continue as far as is practical.
“Currently we are trying to get players who are already established in the Premier League,” he admitted.
“That’s not easy because they come at a premium, they cost more money, and they might actually be quite happy where they are.
“Beyond that, we have to open ourselves and go a little further afield and maybe that’s an area where we are not geared up as much as we would like because we had a lot of players coming in from abroad last season who found it difficult.
“I know what it’s like - I knew what it was like having worked in Germany where you don’t know the language and there are so many things to adjust to – and then on top of that, we were asking them to play Premier League football.
“It’s an exciting time right now though and I’m looking forward to it –. the World Cup is going on and we’ve had the Premier League fixtures announced, what more can you want?”
Congerton turned down job offers at home and abroad so he could move to Sunderland.
He took over his role in March at a time when it was uncertain whether he would be recruiting players this summer for the Premier or Championship this summer.
The 40-year-old, who has impressed in coaching, scouting and director roles at Liverpool, Chelsea and Hamburg, said: “I had other opportunities in England to do this role but Sunderland was the one club where I thought, ‘I fancy this’.”
“My father is really proud because he’s from the North East and he spoke of how big a club it is.”