Sunderland close to two new signings head coach Lee Johnson reveals

Sunderland head coach Lee JohnsonSunderland head coach Lee Johnson
Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson is hopeful that Sunderland will make a breakthrough in the transfer market next week.

The Black Cats head coach is hopeful that at least two players will arrive, with the club in advanced negotiations over a number of transfer targets.

Sunderland completed their first business of the window on Friday night, when Jacob Carney arrived from Manchester United.

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The young goalkeeper will initially join up with Lee Burge and Anthony Patterson in the senior group, but is also expected to bolster the U23 side over the course of the campaign.

Sunderland began their pre-season campaign on Monday with a threadbare squad, though Aiden McGeady has since signed a new one-year deal and there is now significant optimism that Luke O'Nien will also agree new terms.

Talks with Denver Hume remain ongoing, while Johnson has said that he is '95% certain' that Charlie Wyke will pursue a new opportunity.

That leaves the Black Cats with significant work to do before the start of the new campaign, but Johnson is confident that he will soon bolster his ranks.

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The head coach says the club are in talks both with free agents and players currently contracted to other clubs.

The Black Cats are also pursuing loan opportunities and hope to make a breakthrough on that front.

“We have actually got four or five current bids on the table for various positions so it’s not like we’re not moving," Johnson said.

“You always look at the transfer market and it's, are they affordable? Are they accessible and are they available? So you don’t bid for somebody unless you feel they are affordable accessible and available and obviously it depends on transfer fee. Agents fees as well and at the moment, I think agents have been pretty unrealistic with the climate to the levels of percentages they want.

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“Inevitably, as time goes on the player starts getting a little bit anxious about ‘the other boys are training’ and all his mates are training and he’s not, and things start to move a little bit.

"So I’m confident in the majority of positions in our list and in our actions, but obviously it’s one thing acting on it and getting it over the line.

“What I would say is myself, Kristjian [Speakman], Jamie [McAllister], Luke Coles [analyst], James Young [head of data and analysis] and obviously Stuart Harvey [head of recruitment], we’ve been 7am till 11pm all summer thrashing all these out. I need a holiday!"

On whether Sunderland were bidding for free agents or contracted players, he added: “Both. I would say you look at what type of bid you can make, you can make transfer, a trade if you like, you’ve got a free agent that’s on the market that’s been released and you can do a bit more with that one.

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"You can get them in, you can give them a thorough medical, you can run them and have a look and then of course you’ve got loan bids. There’s two or three of those.

"Probably more than that to be honest, actually pending, so not a million miles away on probably at least three signings so I’d expect definitely two to come through the door next week."

Sunderland's new recruitment team inherited a threadbare operation, and have been building a database of targets based not just on traditional scouting, but on extensive data analysis.

Johnson says building those profiles in each position has been a significant undertaking, and said it had unearthed a number of previously unknown targets.

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Sunderland are currently pursuing a deal for one of those players.

The head coach said a huge amount of work was being done as the club bid to make progress.

"What I do know is that the work that goes on behind the scenes," he said.

"Obviously I’m a part of that. It’s been a tough summer .

“Like I said to you before, historically, we’ve been left with nothing. We’ve got our football nous if you know what I mean.

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"Obviously there has been a big data drive and that data is developing day by day and showing some really interesting characteristics in terms of my philosophy and players within that.

"That has flagged up probably six or seven players that we didn’t know just from the old football nous side and in fact, one we’ve bid on, so that’s quite interesting."

Johnson said he was pleased with the response of the group he is working with during the first week of pre-season.

His senior side held a 1-0 lead at the interval at Spennymoor Town thanks to an Aiden O'Brien goal.

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Spennymoor took the lead through two set-piece goals at the start of the second half against an U22 XI from Sunderland, but a fine goal from Ellis Taylor levelled the scores.

"The lads who've been in have been fantastic, we've had twelve or thirteen sessions and we've pushed them really hard," Johnson said.

"They've responded well, given us really good intensity and they all look fit.

"So far, so good.

"That's the challenge now, as players start to come through the door it's about getting their base fitness right and starting to accelerate the tactical awareness of what we require, particularly because these guys will be new to us."

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Johnson also offered an update on Ollie Younger and Aiden McGeady, who were not involved.

"Ollie has been out due to COVID," Johnson said.

"He's not been well, bless him. He has improved over the last couple of days.

"Aiden is groomsman at his sister's wedding, but to be fair he was only in the building as of Wednesday so he probably wouldn't have been involved anyway today."

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