Chris Young column - Sunderland forward planning delayed, but will there be summer sales?

Steven Fletcher (right)
Steven Fletcher (right)
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IT’S NOT just shredded nerves which are eased by securing Premier League survival with a bit to spare.

Sunderland’s inability to get the better of QPR or West Brom leaves Wearside facing the prospect of another nail-biter heading into the last week or two of the campaign, unless Gus Poyet can suddenly overseee three wins on the trot – tough after just four top-flight victories all season.

Steven Fletcher is the obvious one who has to be considered for pastures new – out of form, short of goals and perhaps most importantly, heading into the final 12 months of his Sunderland contract.

But even if the Black Cats do beat the drop again, such a finale has repercussions for the following season.

Planning for who comes in, and who goes out, has to be put on ice to a degree.

As Poyet tellingly remarked prior to last weekend’s stalemate: “We know if we win the next three or four everything will be better and we will have the option to plan better.”

Now the situation is nowhere near as grave as last season, when the contingency planning for the Championship had to be as detailed as the blueprint for another year in the Premier League.

But should – as seems likely – Sunderland still be on a “will they/won’t they” see-saw in May, then those discussions with agents, clubs and players that are inevitably taking place now, are dominated by the caveat of staying up.

Presuming (always dangerous) that Sunderland do extend their Premier League existence though, then there are several obvious areas that need addressing in any recruitment drive.

Sunderland will need at least three defenders, with question marks over whether veterans Wes Brown and Anthony Reveillere will continue, and Sebastian Coates not producing sufficient so far to justify a permanent move.

The Black Cats glaringly need a creative, attacking central midfielder too, albeit that has been a problem for a number of years.

And after netting a paltry 22 times in 26 Premier League games so far this season – the second lowest tally in the top flight – fresh blood is required in attack, despite the January capture of Jermain Defoe.

But it is the players who could potentially leave the club in the summer which may be much more compelling.

Sunderland are clearly in an era of balancing the books, even if many supporters don’t like, buy or understand the nuances of Financial Fair Play, particularly when the rules seem to be flaunted by their Premier League rivals.

If Sunderland are bringing in half a dozen players or so, then there may have to be a player or two offloaded in addition to those whose contracts and loan deals expire.

But that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Steven Fletcher is the obvious one who has to be considered for pastures new – out of form, short of goals and perhaps most importantly, heading into the final 12 months of his Sunderland contract.

Poyet likes Fletcher and thought initially that he was the obvious strike partner for Defoe, yet since those goals in the Autumn and a superb display in the Tyne-Wear derby, the Scot has reverted to those underwhelming performances of last season.

A fresh start is perhaps best for all parties.

There won’t be a lack of suitors. There was interest from elsewhere in the Premier League in January (and not just Steve Bruce at Hull) while Celtic are long-term admirers.

Emanuele Giaccherini is another who might benefit from trying his hand elsewhere after confirmation yesterday that he is likely to miss the rest of the season through injury.

Giaccherini is a footballers’ footballer, whose ability and application isn’t in question.

It’s easy to see why he is rated highly by Sunderland’s hierarchy, while Poyet has been genuinely disappointed to see the Italian international sidelined for so much of the campaign.

But Giaccherini has been in the Premier League two years now and he still hasn’t really made the impact Sunderland were looking for when they splashed out £7million in the summer of 2013.

The same reservations apply as when Paolo Di Canio and Roberto De Fanti brought him from Juventus.

Is he big enough? Is he fast enough?

It’s a moot point whether any Serie A clubs will have the money to match Giaccherini’s Sunderland wages, while the 29-year-old himself has constantly shrugged off the stream of speculation over a return to Italy by declaring his determination to make the grade on Wearside.

But should Sunderland receive a decent offer, then they will surely be tempted.

Whether Sunderland stay up or not, both Giaccherini and Fletcher could be on their way.

That is some planning which can possibly be done now.