YOU can't help but feel sorry for Sunderland, unless you are a Newcastle United fan that is.

Considering the situation of all three of the North-East's Premier clubs, it is fair to say that the trio's managers - Sir Bobby Robson, Howard Wilkinson and Steve McClaren - all wanted to make additions to their squad for different reasons before the closure of the transfer window last night.

Newcastle's Robson splashed out £9m - the biggest transfer in the January window - on Leeds' England centre-back Jonathan Woodgate in his bid to push Arsenal and Manchester United all the way for the Premiership title the Magpies covet.

At Boro, McClaren tied up deals for Malcolm Christie and Chris Riggott- for an initial £3m - as well as late last night closing in on Bolton's Michael Ricketts for £2.5m to try to turn around his side's lacklustre campaign.

But Wilkinson, with a relegation fight firmly at the front of his mind, has added just a single player to his already injury-hit Sunderland staff - and a little known loan recruit at that.

Midfielders Kazuyuki Toda, Martjin Reuser and Tommy Oren are all known to have been targeted by the Black Cats, but Wilkinson is going to have to battle on with the current crop of under-achievers, plus Moroccan international Talal el Karkouri, at his disposal.

The mere fact that Newcastle have such funds available at this time of the season says it all.

The Magpies are clearly a club, under Robson's expert guidance, who are going places but the same can not be said for their most fierce rivals.

The only destination looking to be on the cards for Sunderland at the moment is the Nationwide League and they were deseprate for new blood to boost their struggling form.

It will hurt the fans on Wearside deeply to see Newcastle in such a healthy state, especially when considering the debts at the Stadium of Light are £25m and rising.

People say money makes money, and in Newcastle's case that seems to be true. Few will argue with the point that the St James' Park outfit are heading for the Champions League again next season - meaning the £9m spent on Woodgate will become a distant memory.

But for Sunderland that will not be the case. In fact they will not even been able to make big money during the close season, even if they do preserve their top-flight status.

At the Riverside, meanwhile, they may not be quite in the same state as Sunderland just yet.

And McClaren will be hoping the captures of Christie and Riggott - with a view to permanent moves in the summer - plus Ricketts will help his side climb back up the Premiership table.

Money will be made available for McClaren in June to bring in some new players. But only time will tell how much.

One thing for sure is that Boro will not be in the glamorous surroundings that is European football next season - unless they take the unlikely route of the InterToto Cup.

And that means they will not have the cash to compete with Newcastle in the transfer market.

So while Newcastle, Champions League and all, look to be on the verge of greatness, and Boro look set for more mid-table mediocrity, unfortunately Sunderland seem to be on the rocky road to Nationwide League obscurity.