Jermain Defoe and more questions on deadline day against Sunderland without a manager – James Hunter


As recently as Friday, Lee Johnson said he “not necessarily” expected a busy transfer deadline.

Now he has paid the price for Saturday’s 6-0 hammering at Bolton and can take the day off.

Johnson’s sacking late last night means the club will be heading towards the deadline with sporting director Kristjaan Speakman and the recruitment team calling all the shots, and when the new head coach arrives he will take over with deals transfers completed.

READ MORE: Bolton backlash proves the straw that broke the camel’s back as Sunderland sack Lee Johnson

Sunderland have already brought in four new faces – Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke, Danny Batth and Trai Hume – this month, which means it’s now a matter of filling in a couple of gaps, the most pressing of which is to add a forward as competition and cover for Ross Stewart.

But Bolton have exposed and exploited Sunderland’s shortcomings, and the question Speakman has to wrestle with is whether the new head coach can solve those problems on the training ground or if more reinforcements are needed.

The need for another striker remains indisputable because unless they bring in a backup, should anything happen to their 18-goal top scorer, Stewart, they can forget about promotion.

Nathan Broadhead, on loan at Everton, is not expected to return from injury until March and it would be too risky to try to manage.

Fan favorite Jermain Defoe has been linked with a return to Wearside over the past fortnight.

There have been talks between the club and the player, but Johnson has apparently expressed reservations about the former England international returning to the club at the age of 39.

Now that Johnson is gone, the odds of Defoe arriving have likely improved.

But the fact that he is a free agent means that tonight’s 11pm deadline is irrelevant in his case and it may be that if he joins it will happen outside the window.

His quality and experience are beyond doubt but have to be weighed against his age and lack of football – just nine minutes of action for Rangers this season.

Many fans want to see Defoe return to red and white after his two-and-a-half years at the club in the Premier League, but whether that materializes is another matter.

Elsewhere, Sunderland have been persistently linked with Northampton left-back Ali Koiki following Denver Hume’s move to Portsmouth last week.

Given Dennis Cirkin’s struggles at Bolton, Koiki could be an option Sunderland will revisit on deadline day.

With Luke O’Nien still sidelined, Sunderland could also look to strengthen in central midfield where they currently depend on Corry Evans, Dan Neil and Carl Winchester – and for much of the season Winchester have been asked to fill in at the right rear.

As for exits, Aiden O’Brien almost joined Doncaster in the summer but is unlikely to be allowed to leave now – unless and until another striker arrives, at least.

There have also been talks of centre-back Arbenit Xhemajli being loaned out to secure regular senior games now that he has recovered from his long knee injury.

Jermain Defoe

The big will he/will he not be from the window.

Defoe is available as a free agent after leaving Rangers this month, and he has indicated he is open to a return to Sunderland four and a half years after leaving Wearside.

The 39-year-old former Spurs and England man would be a popular signing, but whether he could play his part in the type of pressing, high-tempo game Johnson wanted to play is another matter – although the new head coach may have different ideas.

Either way, a move for Defoe isn’t likely to be completed before tonight’s transfer deadline.

Ali Koiki

Sunderland were mentioned as a possible suitor for Northampton left-back Koiki this month.

The 22-year-old former Burnley and Bristol Rovers man has also reportedly attracted interest from Preston North End for the Championship and Sheffield on Wednesday for League One.

Sunderland already have a left-back in Dennis Cirkin, and earlier in the window brought in youngster Trai Hume from League of Northern Ireland side Linfield, so if the Black Cats try to secure a deal for Koiki is questionable.

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