Poor old Sunderland, back to back relegations look likely for the first time in their history as they struggle to get to grips with life outside the Premier League.
There’s undoubtedly going to be a spell of rebuilding in the summer as, barring a miracle, Chris Coleman plots a course through League One and back to the Championship. Many of the current squad will fall by the wayside, either jumping ship to remain in the second tier, or walking the plank as punishment for the drop.
In their place, the Black Cats will be looking to attract the very best League One has to offer. If an out of contract player in League One is presented with an offer from Gillingham, Accrington and Sunderland, which club is he going to pick? They might be big fish in a medium sized pond at present, but relegation makes them a blue whale in your living room fish tank.
One player who could well pop up on their radar is Bishop Auckland born right back Tony McMahon, currently at Bradford City. Their current right back is Welsh international Adam Matthews and he might not fancy a midweek trip to Rochdale. Even if he does, Chris Coleman might like some of the £2m they paid out for him in his own pocket. It won’t be to the player’s detriment, but he’s saleable and Sunderland will be wanting a war chest.
McMahon is out of contract this summer too, meaning he wouldn’t cost them a fee. He’s 32-years old so he’s not exactly ‘up and coming’, but he could well be a safe bet at full back, experienced enough to help them navigate the unknown waters in which they’re going to be sailing. He’s got 29 Bradford City outings to his name this season, prior to which he’s been at Blackpool and Sheffield United. He made his name on Teeside with Boro and that is one reason a move to the North East might appeal.
He’s a steady full back without being too spectacular. He’s got a goal this season, a 34th minute strike away at Northampton, but right backs aren’t usually relied on for goals. They do need to be able to create though and that is where he comes into his own, laying on nine goals, around one every three games. That is the sort of figure a creative midfielder would be proud of and it should surely have the Black Cats taking note.
He does seem to be unduly targeted by officials too, nine cards from 43 fouls conceded is remarkable. That is a booking every four fouls, a ratio I’m sure is incredibly high. Maybe it points to a tough tackling full back who is willing to foul when called upon, but his bookings ratio is one in every three games, much like assists. Then again, maybe if a couple of their current players showed that commitment they wouldn’t be in a relegation battle right now.
He has won 34 fouls himself too, painting a picture of a player who gets forward on the ball too. In order to be fouled, you need the ball at your feet and McMahon looks comfortable in that role.
Would he be a good singing for Sunderland? They won’t want to hear it, but yes he would. A relatively unremarkable 32-year old right back is the sort of target they need now, no more £2m men from Celtic, but professionals who know the level and are willing to fight it out with third tier footballers. That is no slur on Adam Matthews, but as the saying goes ‘horses for courses’ and the League One course requires a very specific type of horse.