GUS Poyet will today sit down with Sunderland’s out-of-contract players for a string of discussions which will decide who stays and who goes.
There are seven players out of contract – Seb Larsson, Phil Bardsley, Jack Colback, Keiren Westwood, Carlos Cuellar, Oscar Ustari and Craig Gardner – and Poyet has promised he will deal with them as quickly as possible so they can play for their futures.
Five player are also coming to the end of loans – Marcos Alonso, Fabio Borini, Ki Sung-Yueng, Santiago Vergini and Ondrej Celustka.
Having saved Sunderland’s Premier League skin last night with victory over West Bromwich Albion, the Black Cats’ boss admitted he was keen now to move on with everything that has been put to one side while the relegation battle was won.
“I will sit down and talk to the players without contracts now,” he confirmed.
“I will talk to them about the good and the bad news – that’s something I need to do first.
“Beyond that, we will be able to plan the pre-season games and confirm what we are going to do, where we are going.
“I will also be able to look at players too, because I haven’t looked at players for a long time – we could only focus on what we’ve had ahead of us these last few weeks.
“Everything has been in the air and now we can plan.
“But the mood around the training ground will be fantastic now.
“These will be the three best days of my season – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and Sunday I just want a sunny day and the chance to enjoy a game in the way you should enjoy it.
“After that, I’m going to have an incredible week with my wife away on holiday.”
Poyet wanted to pay tribute to his players for their miraculous escape.
“They deserve credit for it and I was lucky to get a group of players in the last few weeks who understood what we were all about and things clicked,” he said.
“I played the same team five times in a row and I was lucky to do that.
“Those 11 players – with the support of the rest on the bench including not just the substitutes but the likes of Ustari, Ba and Scocco who didn’t get on in games but played their part – they have been great.
“Now we feel we can play anyone really.”
Next season, Poyet is hoping for better for Sunderland.
“I wouldn’t want another seven months like this,” he said. ”I am a strong man, but I don’t want to die.
“When you play with fire, you burn – so we don’t want that.
“I want a season where we can relax.”
It’s a worthy aspiration – but someone should tell him, this IS Sunderland we’re talking about!