Alex Rae on Sunderland's promotion hopes, Jack Ross and dealing with contract 'curve balls'
Revamping Sunderland's squad this summer will be easier said than done for new boss Jack Ross, that's the view of former Black Cats hero Alex Rae.
But the Scottish midfielder is backing his countryman to lead the club back to the second tier at the first time of asking.
In an interview with the Daily Record, Rae details how Ross could encounter some "curve balls" when attempting to make sweeping changes to the Sunderland squad.
"There will be curve balls like trying to negotiate to get people off contracts," said Rae.
"A lot of guys will be released, guys such as John O’Shea who are coming to the end of their contract but the problem is there are some players on serious wages who have played predominantly in the Premier League for the last six or seven years.
"Now they are down in League One and that brings its own issues. Will they want to stay in League One? If not, what other clubs will take them having suffered back-to-back relegations.
"And for those who remain on these big contracts how does Jack maintain harmony in the dressing room when there is such a disparity in wages from guys he brings in? It’s a challenge to balance the books while also keeping the harmony within the dressing room.
"Jack is going to be saying to a few guys you’re not part of my plans but by the same token you don’t want them to be disruptive and that’s where your management skills comes into it.
"He has managed Alloa and St Mirren but this is a different playground altogether – and it will be good for him."
Given the budget publicly promised to Ross by new owner Stewart Donald and with the fans behind him, Rae is certain a Championship return is on the cards at the Stadium of Light.
"It’s an unbelievable opportunity for Jack to go down south and get a promotion under his belt at the first time of asking," said Rae, who was, according to the bookmakers, pipped to the post by former St Mirren and Alloa Athletic boss Ross.
"I expect them to win League One and come straight back up. I’m down in the north east quite a bit and have an understanding of where the club were and what has changed.
"Sunderland was in serious debt until recently under previous owner Ellis Short but he has pretty much swallowed that debt now.
"My understanding is that the next two parachute payments may well offset some of his debt but it means the fella who has come in is taking control of a club that’s debt free.
"It’s a totally different situation from the one Derek (McInnes) knocked back.
"They’ve gone from one extreme to another resulting in back-to-back relegations but if Jack can get the club going in the right direction that can all change very quickly.
"The chairman’s on-record saying they will have the biggest budget in the division which doesn’t surprise me with the fanbase they have.
"I have been round about that League One level when I was at MK Dons and within that period we had teams like Leeds, Southampton and Norwich who all bounced straight back up because they had the fanbase and revenue to do that.
"If Jack can get that fanbase mobilised again the potential is huge. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him.”