Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji are playing a dangerous game as deadline day approaches for Sunderland

It has perhaps been no bad thing that Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji failed to report for pre-season training.

Thursday, 30th August 2018, 8:00 am
Updated Thursday, 30th August 2018, 8:26 am

Sunderland have simply withheld their wages and Jack Ross has not had to worry about the presence of players at the training ground whose minds are elsewhere.

In the short-term, it has been an uneasy situation but one that has just about suited all parties.

Could Didier Ndong be set for an exit?

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With the transfer deadline shutting in two days, however, the truce looks unlikely to last.

There remains hope that deals will be pushed over the line for both but it has been a difficult, frustrating process.

A deal had all but been agreed with Torino for Ndong earlier in the summer before breaking down over agent fees.

A deal with Leganes at one some stage seemed close and so it did again with Benfica.

The Portugese window does not shut until September 21st, perhaps giving Sunderland some hope of a reprieve, but the Black Cats will suspect that both Ndong and Djilobodji are hoping that they cave in the dying embers of deadline day.

It was something that Stewart Donald spoke about earlier in the summer, though on that occasion he was referencing the situation with Lamine Kone.

Kone’s agent, he suspected, was waiting to push through a deal at the last minute, gambling that Sunderland would accept a deal not on their terms but hugely beneficial to the other parties, capitalising on the Wearside club’s need to slash their wage bill.

Sunderland have been absolutely adamant all summer that would not be the case, and moving on a number of other high earners in recent months (including Kone) puts them in a much stronger position.

A resolution before the end of the week is nevertheless best for all parties.

For Sunderland, there is the prospect of the pair returning after the window shuts with a move not secured, swallowing up a significant portion of the club’s budget and, as happened with Jack Rodwell last year, casting a frustrating shadow over the first team picture.

While their exits are not essential in terms of financial fair play, Jack Ross hinted last week that, understandably, the prospect of their return is a budgetary concern for the club.

“It would obviously help us in terms of where we are with everything, not financial fair play, but in terms of how the league looks at us and the model we are trying to put forward,” he said.

“Naturally we have two and although they are not here, they still have a contractual agreement with the club and could come back.”

He is pressing ahead with plans to complete his squad for the months ahead and the talented Celtic playmaker Ryan Christie is top of his list.

The 23-year-old is a player he has admired for some time and a left-footed attacker, Ross believes he can add something different to his options.

Elsewhere, he is comfortable with what he has.

Tom Flanagan’s return from injury gives him a versatile, consistent defender.

Up front the picture is improving dramatically, with Charlie Wyke back in full training and Jerome Sinclair expected to join him sometime next week.

It has been, by and large, a tremendous window for Sunderland.

While these are early days in the season, every signing to feature so far has made an impact.

There were question marks over Alim Ozturk and perhaps for some supporters there still are, but his contribution at AFC Wimbledon was valuable.

Jack Ross and the recruitment team have showed patience and imagination in building a squad that is engaging supporters.

The new regime have been strong but pragmatic when required, reaching sensible resolutions with the likes of Kone and Rodwell.

The departures of Ndong and Djilibodji are just about the last pieces of the puzzle.

Should their brinkmanship result in a prolonged stay on Wearside, it will be a blow for Sunderland.

The blow to their own careers, however, will surely be far greater.

They will be miles behind on match fitness and will have little chance of ever featuring in Jack Ross’s plans.

Like Lamine Kone and Jack Rodwell, they need to be realistic about their value and earning potential.

Assuming Sunderland will cave in the next 48 hours would be a dangerous assumption.