Football League World
·24 March 2023
Football League World
·24 March 2023
They may end up falling just short of the Championship play-offs, but if they do it has still been a fantastic first season back in the second tier for Sunderland after four years away.
Breaking into the top six before the end of the season is no forlorn hope just yet as they are only seven points adrift, but you get the feeling now that the Black Cats will have to settle for a second successive season in the Championship without having to suffer the rigmarole of the play-offs.
An exciting change to the transfer strategy since Kyril Louis-Dreyfus took over as Sunderland's owner in 2021 has seen a lot of top young talents arrive at the Stadium of Light - Edouard Michut, Amad Diallo and Joe Gelhardt on loan as well as the permanent additions of Abdoullah Ba, Jewison Bennette, Jack Clarke and many others.
You have to mix that with domestic experience to make things work though, and that is why Sunderland should be in the transfer hunt for Bolton Wanderers striker Dion Charles this summer.
Granted, Charles would go against the usual transfer structure now on Wearside being 27 years of age, but if there is one area of the pitch that Sunderland have been desperately short in all season it is in attack.
Ross Stewart going down with a thigh problem in September didn't help and his subsequent season-ending Achilles injury in January following his return to action, coupled with the club's inability to get a replacement in through the door on deadline day, has left Tony Mowbray with an issue he did not envisage.
Perhaps if Stewart had stayed fit or if a replacement was signed then the club would be closer to the play-offs, but in Charles they could bring a player in who could still be improving despite being in the normal peak years of a player's career to either compete with Stewart when he's fit or play alongside him.
Charles had played non-league football exclusively until 2019 - despite being on the books of Blackpool and Fleetwood earlier on in his career but never playing a league game for them - until Accrington Stanley plucked him from Southport that year.
After 30 goals in 97 appearances in all competition for Accy, Charles moved on to Bolton at the start of 2022 for £320,000 and his 14 months at the Trotters so far have seen him net 26 goals in 66 outings, including 15 in League One during the current campaign.
He is also now regularly appearing for the Northern Ireland national team and despite the opposition only being San Marino, he enhanced his reputation with a brace in a 2-0 victory on Thursday night.
If Bolton were to go up through the play-offs and become Sunderland's divisional rivals next season, then there would be no chance of making a move possible you'd imagine.
But despite being contracted at Bolton until 2025, you could see the temptation of a switch to Wearside should interest be showed and Wanderers don't earn promotion.
Financially, Sunderland should be able to do some business this summer and have a healthy transfer budget due to the size of their crowds and if Louis-Dreyfus wants to invest, and Charles would perhaps cost a couple of million pounds.
With Ross Stewart's situation unclear though as he's only under contract until 2024, it could be wise for Sunderland to make a move whilst they still don't have the Scotland international agreed to an extension and before other clubs start to sniff around Charles, whose pace, movement and finishing abilties make him a Championship striker in waiting.
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