AS Gustavo Poyet chatted in the tunnel at the end of his pre-season trip to the Algarve, he had the look of a manager optimistic for the future.
Just a few days earlier, he had given the impression he was less than satisfied at not having the Sunderland squad he would have liked with him for the ten-day break.
It has been one of those summers for Poyet, but the ever-changing tales of attempts in the transfer market are merely the latest twists and turns of an up and down first ten months in charge at the Stadium of Light.
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The Uruguayan had hoped the first stages of his tenure on Wearside would have been smoother. But the reality is that, having taken over from Paolo Di Canio with just one point on the board from eight games last season, there was never going to be a quick-fix.
Sunderland did well to stay up in his first season in charge but there is no way he wants a repeat, which is why he has been so desperate to overhaul the squad and bring in plenty of new faces.
“The first part when I took over was very hard because a lot needed to change but it was also about getting the points,” said Poyet. “By January I thought, we have got it ... we’re going to be safe. Then after the Capital One Cup final, we didn’t. We had a really bad spell.
“But we finished well and saw it through. Now it’s up to me, to the team to perform from the start. We can’t go into the season with any excuses. We have to start well. I don’t want to have any excuse. Let’s see what we can do.”
Between now and the end of the transfer window this month Sunderland will look to do further business.
He would have preferred the majority of changes to personnel to be concluded before last week’s Algarve visit.
But Poyet said: “There have been a few things that maybe have not gone so well.
We always ask for more players, that’s all managers, but nothing more than I was expecting.
“There are a few things from our point of view that we have not been able to do, like I have said this summer, is that we would have wanted players in earlier.
“We either couldn’t agree with the club or couldn’t agree with the player. It was one or the other. But I’m sure we will have more good news and we can then look to the start of the season.”
Goals have been something of a problem during preseason and that is why so much time has been spent trying to bring in the extra firepower and creativity, having learned lessons from his period in charge.
If Sunderland can crack that, Poyet believes they will shape up nicely.
“We know we have needed to improve that,” he said.
“But I’m not worried. That will come because we are creating chances and we are not relying on lucky breaks.
“That is why I have wanted something extra at times and we have looked for different players to change things in the attacking area of the pitch ... I’m sure we will be fine.”
COMMENT by Richard Mason
SUNDERLAND’S summer has been bookended by a pair of Jacks – but will going all in on Fabio Borini turn out to be a fruitless roll of the dice for Gustavo Poyet?
Jack Colback’s move from Sunderland to Newcastle was hardly the smoothest of transitions, with the Wearsiders complaining that the midfielder’s departure to their fiercest rivals ‘left a bitter taste in the mouth’ – although it can be argued that if Sunderland had offered a more generous deal last summer they might have retained Colback’s services.
Their lack of movement in the market has been magnified by the revolving doors up at Newcastle, but such inactivity is to be expected.
Ellis Short appointed Lee Congerton last season to oversee transfers after severing ties with agent Roberto De Fanti whose scattergun approach to player recruitment left a legacy of unwanted players who are proving difficult to move on.
In Patrick van Aanholt, Jordi Gomez, Costel Pantilimon and Billy Jones , Congerton has recruited players with Premier League experience – something which the last regime failed to do. For the sporting director, that was always going to be part of the plan, but it takes time to get the scouting system moving in the right direction.
With Congerton preferring to go for players with experience of the top flight, a premium is charged, and the £10m reported fee for Jack Rodwell is no exception. Brought in on wages believed to be £64,000, the former Manchester City midfielder is expensive, and a risk – hamstring injuries have plagued the youngster’s recent career.
Rodwell has been a summerlong target, alongside Borini.
Sunderland’s spending hinged on these signings and with Borini dragging his heels over a decision, it has created an inertia on deals elsewhere.
Marcos Alonso’s protracted move to the club has depended on Modibo Diakite going in the other direction.
In many ways, Sunderland’s hands are tied, and while you cannot blame the club for waiting on Borini, there must come a time when they will abandon their pursuit and try a plan B.
The transfer market may have been a slow burner for Sunderland this summer, but supporters would much rather see the right players come in rather than another raft of signings not fit for purpose.