Kristjaan Speakman issues his verdict on long-running Sunderland transfer debate and confirms club stance
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Kristjaan Speakman says Sunderland are looking to add 'something different' to their midfield options before the January transfer window closes but insists the club will only sign a player who can compete for a place in the long term.
A holding midfielder has been high on many supporters' wishlists since Corry Evans suffered an ACL injury last January. Evans is still some way off making a return and in his absence, both Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah have at times been asked with playing in a deeper role. While both have done admirably, their preferred position would be higher up the pitch and head coach Michael Beale has said that they would benefit from a specialist number six.
Sunderland's sporting director said they were looking for some different attributes to the current options, but suggested he did not see it as simply as signing a replacement for Evans. "I'd probably see it slightly differently to how you've articulated it there," he said.
"I think we have got some really good midfield players and depending on who we're facing on a Saturday and how we might look to tweak and amend things, you're looking for certain preferences within someone's skill set. Would we like to add another player in the middle of the pitch? Yeah, I think we would like to have a little bit more difference [in our options] to create a bit more balance.
"Sometimes those players are here and are injured, sometimes it is about players who you are trying to sign," he added.
"It's about signing the right player, what you can't do is get on the path of signing the wrong player and adding them to your group, that doesn't provide a solution it just creates problems somewhere down the track. It just means you have players who you don't think can be part of the team [in the long run] and who the coach isn't going to want to pick in the team."
Sunderland are close to addressing one of their key priorities in the window, with a seven-figure deal agreed for Leeds United youngster Leo Hjelde. Hjelde offers cover across the left side of defence, with the club also open to adding an experienced striker.
Some supporters were left frustrated by the slow pace of the January business, after significant funds were received for the sales of Ross Stewart, Lynden Gooch and Isaac Lihadji in the summer. Speakman said the club were continuously investing in the playing squad and that would continue in this window and beyond.
"The football club has invested in the playing squad every single window," he said.
"I'm not really sure how many clubs have been as consistent as we have over the last four or five transfer windows, you could probably do the research on that.
"So we've always in a position where we can take an opportunity, if that makes sense. Just because we have the opportunity, it doesn't mean you just go and sign anyone from anywhere who isn't going to make an impact - whether that be in the short, medium or long term. If we haven't signed anyone then it's not because we don't have the resource, it's about our preference and finding the right type of player for what we want to do."