May 18, 2024

The Hammers have been linked with Black Cats winger Jack Clarke in recent weeks.

This month, Sunderland face the very real possibility of having Jack Clarke prised away from them, like a Terry’s chocolate orange from the clenched jaws of a stubborn Golden Retriever. In the long term, everybody knows that it is not sustainable for a player of his obvious buoyancy to be languishing in the charged cesspit of the Championship, and yet, the throbbing streak of self-preservation within Mackems everywhere would have him stay on Wearside for an eternity, if such things were possible.

Despite its astounding nature, Clarke’s 13 goals in 27 league games for the Black Cats thus far this season only truly tells half the tale. When the winger is not at his best, Sunderland usually doesn’t win. Clarke has scored 11 of his team’s 15 away goals since the start of the season, and no other player wearing a red and white shirt has scored on the road since September.

Indeed, during the latter days of Tony Mowbray’s tenure at the Stadium of Light, one of the most frequent accusations thrown at the affable chocoholic was that he had grown tactically stale, and that beyond ferrying the ball out to the left flank and hoping for the best, Sunderland were bereft of ideas. Since Michael Beale succeeded him in December, very little has changed.

I know for a fact' - Tony Mowbray revealed Sunderland Jack Clarke asking  price before sacking - Sports Illustrated Sunderland Nation

All of this is to say that it is perfectly understandable that Clarke is attracting interest from a bushel of Premier League clubs. According to various frightening reports, West Ham are particularly eager to acquire his services before the end of January, but the Hammers will face stiff competition from the likes of Brentford, Crystal Palace, and a smattering of others besides.

Now, to reiterate, nobody of sound mind and a Mackem persuasion wants Clarke to leave Wearside in the coming fortnight, but there is a creeping sense of inevitability that his departure will happen one way or another, sooner or later. And if Sunderland are to go through the ordeal of having their creative soul ripped out and spray-painted in shades of claret and blue, they might as well try and get something in return.

At the risk of sounding rote, the Black Cats need a functioning striker. Of the four they currently employ – Jobe Bellingham notwithstanding – three are still yet to score a goal this season, and Nazariy Rusyn, despite looking capable enough in concentrated bursts, can’t seem to catch a prolonged break in the starting XI. As such, for many supporters, the addition of a new centre forward is a matter of high priority this month.

One name that has become increasingly prevalent in conversations on the topic is that of Divin Mubama, a 19-year-old prospect who just so happens to be on the books at West Ham. In many respects, he would represent that archetypal Sunderland target under Kristjaan Speakman’s recruitment model; a young, precocious product of a Premier League academy system who is conveniently barrelling towards the expiration of his current deal in East London. Similar raids for ex-Hammers Aji Alese and Pierre Ekwah have already proven that such signings can yield impactful results.

With a flurry of first team outings in recent months, and a growing sense that West Ham would ideally prefer to tie him down to a lengthy contract extension if possible, Mubama represents a desirable asset – especially to a club in the upper reaches of the second tier. Speaking about the teenager last season, his manager, David Moyes, said: ‘Every time Divin has come on, I tell you what he does, he runs and he does the work and he doesn’t think twice about his effort or anything he does. Because of that, we’re growing to him all of the time.’ A player who leads the line with a willing physical presence, and who isn’t afraid to stretch a defence with his movement? Be still, my beating red and white heart.

Apparently, Mubama will not take over as Clarke’s replacement immediately. Don’t take this post the wrong way and start sending me angry emails about how incompetent I am in general. As it is, I receive enough of those. But there’s no harm in attempting to get a very promising striker tossed into the bargain if and when the wide man says goodbye, supposing that any potential deal combining the two players would also include a large wedge of cash to enhance the Black Cats’ coffers.

Sunderland’s current bitter pill would be losing Clarke, but at least Mubama would make it a little bit sweeter.

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