SAFC Verdict: Little time to savour survival as Sunderland must quickly focus on vital summer reboot

Sporting director Lee Congerton and owner Ellis Short faces a raft of big decisions this summer
Sporting director Lee Congerton and owner Ellis Short faces a raft of big decisions this summer
0
Have your say

For the last two months, everything has been on hold at Sunderland until their fate in the relegation dogfight became clear.

Yes, Sunderland have been watching potential transfer targets, making enquiries and plotting a summer strategy to acquire the quality which this squad has obviously been lacking for the last couple of years.

All focus now has to turn to ending this constant cycle of near-brushes with relegation and finally fulfil that cherished objective of establishing Sunderland in the Premier League with a touch of stability

But little concrete has been possible with that “what if?” scenario constantly looming.

Now that Sunderland know they will continue to exist as a Premier League operation though, they cannot waste another minute.

Ellis Short and Lee Congerton could afford themselves a quick moment of satisfaction after the draw at the Emirates on Wednesday night, particularly the latter, whose recommendation to appoint Dick Advocaat has proved to be a master-stroke.

But there can be no basking in the almighty relief of beating the drop.

All focus now has to turn to ending this constant cycle of near-brushes with relegation and finally fulfil that cherished objective of establishing Sunderland in the Premier League with a touch of stability.

The constant saga of poor signings, squabbling and desperate managerial changes has to stop. Now.

Rightly, Advocaat’s future will be at the top of Sunderland’s agenda, with the Dutchman due to sit down with the club’s hierarchy next week to discuss the chances of him staying.

There is no question in Short’s mind that Advocaat is the right man to begin a more tranquil period in Sunderland’s history and he has been impressed both with what he has seen and heard from the vastly-experienced former Holland and Rangers manager.

Congerton, too, has a positive relationship with Advocaat, a stark contrast to the difficult, turbulent times he endured with Gus Poyet.

It all hinges on Advocaat himself, plus his other half, over whether his retirement can be postponed for a year or so.

But even if Advocaat’s arm is twisted to stay, he will need a better hand to work with, and has indicated as much himself.

There needn’t be an influx of new players as big as last summer, when Sunderland were forced to recruit quantity as much as quality to unpick the damage done by Roberto De Fanti’s spending in the summer of 2013.

But the Black Cats will need around half-a-dozen fresh signings, who are capable of going straight into the starting XI and improving it, rather than just landing bodies to make up the numbers.

After years of recruitment blunders, Sunderland need some big success stories in this transfer window.

While Congerton and Short turn their attention to those lofty matters, the contingent of supporters travelling to Stamford Bridge on Sunday can simply enjoy themselves, without that agonising tension worrying about results elsewhere.

In that four-day gap between Saturday’s draw at Leicester and Wednesday’s draw at Arsenal, fans and players alike had faced that constant torture of fretting over which Manchester United would turn up at Hull, and whether West Ham boss Sam Allardyce could get revenge over Newcastle United.

There’s none of that anymore.

Sunderland can enjoy the final day of the season, with arguably more interest in proceedings at St James’s Park than at Stamford Bridge.

After the emotional and physical toll at Arsenal, it would be staggering if Sunderland come away with anything from their final game of the campaign.

As witnessed last season against Swansea, the emotional release after securing survival understandably leaves players utterly spent.

Advocaat also has to cope with the potential absence of integral figures Seb Larsson (through injury) and Lee Cattermole (on a risky 14 yellow cards) with several of the Under-21 squad likely to be involved in the squad.

But even if Sunderland get spanked at Stamford Bridge, it’s largely an irrelevance.

The hard work has been done and the harder work now lies ahead.

Verdict: Home win