Don’t believe any nonsense about players ignoring the machine-gun fire of speculation which bombards the senses during the transfer window.
With 10 days to go before Sunderland’s squad is finally assembled for the fight to stay in the top flight, Sam Allardyce’s men are inevitably casting a glance over a paper or iPad in the Academy of Light canteen over the latest on the rumour mill.
“Every day, whether it is on the internet or in the paper, you’ll see a different player linked with either arriving or leaving,” says veteran Sunderland skipper John O’Shea.
“Until the window closes, players and fans alike will have that hope and anxiety of whether there’s a new arrival.”
It has already been a busy month at Sunderland, with Jan Kirchhoff and Dame N’Doye arriving, while Costel Pantilimon, Danny Graham and Will Buckley have headed to the exit door.
More surely needs to be done to strengthen the squad (particularly considering the investment of Sunderland’s relegation rivals), yet the Black Cats are evidently in the market for further reinforcements, as they continue their pursuit of Swansea winger Andre Ayew.
But while Allardyce is playing the game of transfer poker – particularly as he has attempted to free up funds by offloading players – tomorrow’s opponents Bournemouth wasted no time in splashing the cash this month.
The Cherries spent around £17million to bring in Benik Afobe from Championship side Wolves and Lewis Grabban from the fringes of Norwich’s squad, while also adding winger Juan Iturbe on a loan deal from Roma.
That investment immediately paid off for Eddie Howe’s side last weekend, with Afobe opening his account in a pivotal 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Norwich.
And one-time Bournemouth loanee O’Shea knows the danger posed by fleet-of-foot attackers who are eager to prove themselves in the Premier League.
“We know that the competition in the Premier League increases year after year, squads improve and teams know how valuable it is to stay up,” said O’Shea.
“Bournemouth are spending a bit of cash to try to do that and other teams will be doing that as well.
“Eddie knows the Championship and the lower leagues so well from the success his team has had there.
“He’s been able to target one or two players who are hungry to prove themselves.
“That was the key to getting promotion from the Championship, even bringing in a couple from non-league that they spotted.
“He’s trying his best to keep them in the Premier League and the owners behind him have given him a bit of backing.
“That obviously increases the pressure when you do begin to spend a bit of money.”
Sunderland could hand a debut to a January arrival themselves tomorrow, with N’Doye expected to be on the bench after the on-loan Trabzonspor striker’s work permit was rubber-stamped.
N’Doye will hope to have a better bow in a red and white shirt than fellow new boy Kirchhoff, who endured a miserable debut in last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at Spurs.
But Kirchhoff – who played 90 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly earlier this week – is understood to have shown plenty of promise on the training ground, even if he is clearly drastically short on match fitness.
“I remember coming on for my first Ireland game against Croatia and giving a penalty straightaway for handball. Sometimes these things happen,” said fellow centre-half O’Shea.
“I’ve seen Jan in training and he’ll be okay.
“He’ll obviously get stronger and fitter, and played in the game at the training ground during the week.
“If the manager puts him in at the weekend, then great.
“If he waits a bit longer, we’ll wait and see.
“But he’ll be fine.
“We see the type of lad he is around the place, he speaks good English.”
Kirchhoff is likely to be on the bench, at best, tomorrow, as Sunderland face a third game in four against one of their fellow strugglers in the relegation battle.
Sunderland prevailed against both Aston Villa and Swansea, yet Bournemouth are likely to be a sterner test, as the Black Cats look to halve the six-point gap with the Cherries.
O’Shea added: “You hope the back-to-back wins get you out of the bottom three, but the way the results have gone, other teams have picked up results.
“We’ve got to do that again against a Bournemouth team who’ve obviously spent a bit of cash in the January window to bring some new players in.
“It’s a similar challenge to the one we faced against Aston Villa and Swansea, and we need the same mentality.”