Brighton's Paddy McNair interest is a test Sunderland's new regime are determined to pass
Chris Coleman's vision for Sunderland in League One was one in which the club held on to its young talent and added some seasoned campaigners.
At the heart of that team would be Paddy McNair, the central midfielder who helped Coleman finally settle on a system that brought balance to his Sunderland team.
His late season form was superb, and while not enough to keep the Black Cats up, Coleman was in no doubt that he was a player who changed the dynamic of a game.
Coleman said: “He frees up time and space for the other players around him.
“Our stats on wing-backs, the transitions, bursting forward from midfield, when he plays it is much higher.
“We go from defending, winning the ball and then within three or four seconds we’re in the opposition territory, with bodies getting into the penalty box.
“In any one game of football there are around 300 transitions, and it is the team that anticipates better, turning the defending into attacking and getting bodies forward, they’re the successful one.
“In recent games we’ve been better at that and getting bodies further forward, winning the ball back quicker and attacking, rather than sitting back and wishing our lives away.
“Of course we’ve been open and given the opposition chances too, but our shooting stats have been really high of late.
“That comes from that power in midfield, most games are won or lost in that area. McNair changes how we look, I know that’s a lot of pressure on him but it is a fact of life.”
Coleman was determined to keep him, and the new regime certainly share that sentiment.
The 23-year-old is head and shoulders above most players in the third tier, and has the welcome bonus of not just being technically gifted but physically competitive, too.
That is a potent blend in a key area of the pitch.
Coleman, like the new regime on Wearside, was also aware of the financial realities.
“It’s still a great club to be at, you know. He’s going to be involved here, a team here will be built around him and players like him," he said.
“If someone wants to buy someone like him, there’s no giveaways, they’ll have to pay a hell of a lot of money for him.
“With every club there’s coming and goings of course. If someone offers a King’s ransom I suppose everyone is up for grabs. But we certainly don’t want to lose him.”
A £2 million bid, believed to be from Brighton, was firmly knocked back in recent days, deemed to be 'derisory'.
That will be welcome news to Sunderland fans who believe that in recent years, the Black Cats have too easily moved on players and not got full value for them.
It is obvious that the 23-year-old, a full international more than capable of playing in the top tier, is worth far more than that fee.
For Brighton, it is an obvious move and it will be the same for many teams in the Premier League and the upper reaches of the Championship.
British talent is always sought after. McNair has an eye for goal but can get from box-to-box and is excellent in the air. He will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of clubs.
Behind the scenes there is a sense that Brighton (and a number of teams who have had bids rejected for other players) are testing the water, to see how strong Sunderland's resolve is and to see if there is a need for a short-term financial boost that can be exploited.
The new regime are absolutely insistent that is not the case and that sales will only happen if their valuation of a player is met.
With McNair, there is also another factor to consider. After a difficult spell with injury, he looks to be back to his best but should he continue to get regular games under his belt this season then his value will only rise further.
That will factor into Sunderland's thinking should any further bids arrive.
Of course, how McNair himself sees his career progressing will also be a factor and that goes for all of the club's young talent, who Stewart Donald intends to speak to individually in the near future. It is also true that for all McNair is not one of the club's biggest earners, his wage is still significant enough for the third tier.
With those players who have just one year left on their current deal (Lynden Gooch, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja, George Honeyman), greater pragmatism may be required should they make clear that they do not see themselves as part of the future under Jack Ross.
Again, however, the new owners are insistent that players will only leave on their terms.
A number of players will move on from Sunderland this summer and broadly speaking they fit into two categories.
In the first are the players that Sunderland want and need to move on to relieve the significant burden on the wage bill. In the second are the players that are not so troublesome on that front but could bring in valuable funds for the new manager.
Sunderland's owners will want to keep those in the second category to a minimum and if it does come to it, they are determined that it will purely on their terms.
Charlie Methven was not talking about this issue specifically when he said 'the p*ss-taking party stops here' but it is certainly applicable.
The low-ball offers received so far present a test they are determined to pass.