In a bid to secure a place in the Championship for the first time since 2018, Sunderland have gone on somewhat of a transfer splurge this month to strengthen their squad.
Lee Johnson has been backed and so far Trai Hume, Danny Batth, Patrick Roberts and most recently Jack Clarke have all signed on the dotted line to try and help the Black Cats back to the second tier.
The one name that is on the forefront of all Sunderland fans’ minds right now though is Jermain Defoe – the ex-England international who spent two-and-a-half years with the Wearsiders between 2015 and 2017.
Of course his time at the club didn’t end well as they were relegated to the Championship, but on a personal level in terms of goals, Defoe did all he can to help save them with 15 goals in his final season.
Quiz: Have any of these 28 ex-Sunderland players ever played for Newcastle?
As soon as he was released from his Rangers contract two weeks ago, Black Cats fans were urging the club to make an approach for the striker, who is now 39 years old.
That’s exactly what they have done as Lee Johnson has confirmed, but he doesn’t seem fully convinced that a deal will be struck.
And if it doesn’t there needs to be a back-up plan – Nathan Broadhead is out with a hamstring injury which means Sunderland’s only out-and-out striking options backing up Ross Stewart is young Benjamin Kimpioka – although Aiden O’Brien can deputise through the middle.
In terms of a short-term option until the season’s end, there are players available out there and one is Sam Baldock, who departed Derby County last week.
His signing over the summer for the Rams was one of perhaps desperation due to the fact they were restricted in terms of their dealings, but the 32-year-old ended up playing a decent part for them in the first half of the Championship season.
Baldock didn’t score a single goal for Reading last season in 20 appearances but he found the back of the net twice in 13 outings for Derby, showing his poacher’s instinct of years gone by that has seen him score 117 professional goals in his career – many at League One and Championship level.
If he can perform to a reasonable standard in the second tier this season then why not in League One? He doesn’t have the resume of Defoe but he should be more than capable of making an impact for a promotion-chasing third tier side in the short-term.
This is all about depth as well – it’s unreasonable to bring in a young Premier League loan as he won’t displace the in-form Stewart, so experience is the way to go here and Baldock could be a good player for Kimpioka to learn from as well.
He ticks a lot of boxes and if the Defoe deal doesn’t happen, Baldock should be at least approached.