Jack Ross' Sunderland in-tray: Six key issues facing new manager
New Sunderland owner Stewart Donald capped a remarkable first week with the appointment of Jack Ross '“ and he has a bursting in-tray awaiting him at the Academy of Light.
Ross has spoken passionately about the challenge that lies ahead.
Tasked with securing promotion from League One at the first attempt, we examine some of the key issues facing Ross.
1) Out of contract players and securing futures of Josh Maja and Joel Asoro
John O’Shea, Marc Wilson, Billy Jones and Kazenga LuaLua have been in limbo with their current deals set to expire at the end of June.
With Ross now in post, their futures should be resolved quickly.
Ross will have to determine whether he sees any of those players in his future plans, with the 41-year-old Scot known for favouring high-tempo football and for putting his trust in young players.
That is good news for Asoro and Maja and resolving their futures is key.
Both are out of contract next summer and Sunderland have offered the pair new deals, though they are yet to sign them.
Ross may be away on holiday currently, but that won’t prevent the hard work on the recruitment front from continuing.
A list of potential targets had been drawn up for Chris Coleman by former head of recruitment Neale McDermott, among the members of staff made redundant this week, and Ross will of course have his own targets.
Recruitment will be driven by Ross. Donald said: “The manager will recruit the players – that will be his call.”
Following the takeover and Ross’ appointment, the recruitment drive will now speed up ahead of pre-season training on June 22.
Sunderland need players for every position with a new goalkeeper, at least two centre backs and strikers key.
No time to waste, especially as other clubs would have had a head start when it comes to recruitment and sounding out soon-to-be free agents.
3) Backroom staff
On a very busy Friday, it was confirmed Ross was being joined by assistant James Fowler, the pair having signed two-year deals after Sunderland reportedly agreed a six-figure compensation package with St Mirren for the duo.
It is yet to be confirmed what the rest of Ross’ backroom team will look like and whether there will be roles for goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker and first team coach Robbie Stockdale, who led Sunderland to a 3-0 win over Wolves in front of Donald & Co.
The staffing structure of the club’s academy is also yet to be determined after confirmation academy chief Jimmy Sinclair has retired. Club ambassador Kevin Ball has been tipped for a more prominent role.
4) Determine futures of high-earners
Lee Cattermole, Lamine Kone, Didier Ndong, Papy Djilobodji and Wahbi Khazri. Just some of the high earners the club will have to move on.
Easier said than done, of course, but Ross must quickly determine their futures and try to move as many on as possible, their wages unaffordable in League One as Donald looks to make the club fully sustainable.
5) Jack Rodwell saga
A priority. Donald & Co have moved quickly this week and made some big – and difficult decisions. A key decision will be resolving Rodwell’s future, the flop became an outcast under Coleman, but will still be earning £40,000-a-week in League One.
With a year left on his deal, Sunderland will have to try and get him off the books, though the old regime tried offering him a free transfer – without a pay off – yet Rodwell remained.
6) Pre-season plans
Coleman had drawn up initial plans before his sacking, with a spell on Wearside to start before a week-long training camp abroad, returning to play a number of fixtures in the UK.
There could be a friendly at the Stadium of Light too.
Ross & Co will have to quickly confirm the plans – and friendlies – to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running in League One.