Sunderland boss Lee Johnson has not ruled out the possibility of signing free agents in the upcoming January transfer window, amid a growing injury crisis at the club.
Sunderland have a growing injury list. The latest name on that list is Luke O’Nien who faces at least three month out after it was revealed that he needs shoulder surgery, with names such as Corry Evans, Dennis Cirkin, Niall Huggins and Denver Hume among others already sidelined.
Speaking to Chronicle Live though, Johnson has run the rule over potential free signings in the New Year, saying:
“January is a difficult enough window anyway, and the free agent market at this stage of the season is a really tricky one.
“You could sign someone from the free market but how long does it take them to understand the culture, the systematic ways in which we press, the little idiosyncracies in our in-possession game?”
Sunderland are no strangers to the free market. Both Evans and Alex Pritchard were signed on free transfers ahead of this season but now, approaching the midway point of the campaign, the free market won’t be so littered with talents.
At this stage of the season, those who remain on the free market are likely still free agents for a reason – usually a lack of fitness or previous failings with injury keeping them from finding a new home.
So Sunderland face a difficult pursuit of free agents in the New Year, but Johnson could well look towards his development side for new faces instead. He went on to say:
“There are people out there [in the free agent market], but we’ve also got our U23s, don’t forget, and we’ve worked hard to integrate those guys which is why tonight’s match against Oldham is a really important game.”
Again, Sunderland are no strangers to promoting youth into their first-team. Johnson in particular is a manager who’s looked to do just that at Sunderland, having found new fan favourites in the likes of Dan Neil.
The Black Cats currently sit in 5th-place of the League One table and so January could be a really pivotal month for them if they’re to ensure promotion into the Championship.
Up next for Sunderland is a Papa John’s Trophy clash v Oldham Athletic later this evening.