Sunderland’s January transfer window now ranks among the best spending sprees of Sam Allardyce’s managerial career.
Allardyce felt he had little choice than to reshape the Sunderland squad at his first opportunity after bringing in quartet Wahbi Khazri, Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Kone and Dame N’Doye, while off-loading first-team regulars Steven Fletcher, Danny Graham, Sebastian Coates and Costel Pantilimon.
But he admits it has still been a “mini-miracle” for the trio of Khazri, Kirchhoff and Kone to make such an immediate impact and inject the cohesion into the Sunderland line-up which has taken them out of the relegation zone, albeit only by the slender margin of goal difference ahead of this weekend’s trip to Stoke.
Asked where it compares to other windows during Allardyce’s 25-year managerial career, the Sunderland boss can only point to his final summer at former club West Ham for similar success, when his recruits took the Hammers into top-four contention during the first half of the season.
He said: “This one might just edge it because it was January.
“But West Ham before the start of last season was very good too – Enner Valencia, Alex Song, Carl Jenkinson, Diafra Sakho, Cheik Kouyate and Aaron Cresswell.
“They had us in the top four by Christmas, but couldn’t quite sustain that.
“This one is probably the second best, yet, at West Ham, we’d had two years to build.”
Allardyce thought £14million imports from France’s Ligue 1, Kone and Khazri, had a healthy chance of helping Sunderland in their survival bid.
However, influential midfielder Kirchhoff has been the big bonus for Allardyce after arriving for just £750,000 from Bayern Munich, with all three new boys proving to be first-team regulars over the last three months.
“I never expected me to be playing Kone, Kirchhoff and Wahbi every week, and on some occasions Dame N’Doye as well,” added Allardyce.
“It’s almost been a mini-miracle that they have come from abroad and adapted so quickly.
“Kirchhoff had hardly played for eight to nine months, and Dame was bombed out in Turkey for some reason.
“Kone had been playing very, very well at Lorient and Wahbi had been doing the same at Bordeaux, so the likelihood was that those two would be alright straightaway.
“But the other two hadn’t had many games, so for them to all catch up and be as good as they have been, is one of the main reasons why we’ve been as good as we have.”