Eight key issues still to be resolved before Sunderland kick off their new campaign

Sunderland are currently in Scotland stepping up their preparations for the new campaign.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 4:45 pm

Corry Evans looks set to become their second summer addition, strengthening the midfield options, but there remains much work to be done.

Here, we run you through some of the key, unresolved issues...

DENVER HUME'S CONTRACT

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Sunderland youngster Denver Hume
Sunderland youngster Denver Hume

Two weeks after 22-year-old's previous deal expired, there has still been no resolution on negotiations over a new deal.

Sunderland have made clear their desire to retain the full back, with both Lee Johnson and Kristjaan Speakman convinced that he has a bright future in the game, and that he can be a successful player both in this division and beyond.

A resolution is key, though, as it will clearly have a significant impact on the business Sunderland do in that area of the pitch.

With the ability to carry the ball into dangerous areas from deep and overlap the winger, Hume's athleticism will be key to implementing the club's more attacking philosophy.

Without him, two left backs will be needed.

The sooner the club has clarity, the better.

& ON THE OTHER FLANK

The full back department is currently the area of the pitch where Sunderland are weakest.

On the other flank to Hume, the Black Cats have no specialist senior options in that position.

Luke O'Nien can of course play there, but will surely have a greater role to play in midfield this season.

Oliver Younger debuted in this position against Rochdale, and did well, but is a centre-back by nature and generally speaking his attributes look much more suited to that role. The youngster has missed the start of pre-season due to COVID-19, with Johnson hopeful that he is making a good recovery.

He will challenge for a role across the back four, but the departure of Conor McLaughlin in the summer was an indication of the desire for more attacking threat from deep.

& ACTUALLY, IN THE MIDDLE

Johnson currently has three senior centre-backs but Arbenit Xhemajli is recoving from a major injury and the athleticism of Dion Sanderson needs to be replaced, providing he does not return to the club.

At this stage that seems unlikely, and the club are in talks with Manchester City over youngster Callum Doyle.

NEW KIT REVEAL

Supporters are eagerly anticipating the reveal of the club's new kit for the campaign ahead, with last season's away kit used in the first pre-season friendly at Spennymoor Town.

Depsite the delay, news is expected in the not too distant future.

NEW GOALKEEPER COACH

Lee Butler earlier this week left the Black Cats, linking up with long-time colleague Phil Parkinson at Wrexham.

Parkinson had brought Butler to Wearside after stints at Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers.

In a statement, Sunderland said a 'thorough and extensive' process to identify his replacement was underway.

WILL GRIGG'S FUTURE

The striker had been linked with a return to Wigan Athletic but the Latics surprise swoop for Charlie Wyke, as well as their subsequent move for Rochdale forward Stephen Humphrys, means that is now highly unlikely.

MK Dons retain a strong interest in a deal, with Sporting Director Liam Sweeting confirming last week that they will still in the market for forward additions. Boss Russell Martin has spoken on numerous occasions of his desire to turn last season's successful loan arrangement into a permanent deal.

Grigg, though, remains on Wearside and has one year left on his deal.

The striker made a positive impression during his first pre-season outing at Spennymoor, missing one early chance but going on to carve out two clear cut chances for his team-mates

Beforehand, Johnson had said the door was not closed on the forward's future.

"Whether Will stays remains to be seen, but he's here at the moment and we think he's a good player," he told The Echo.

"We like him as a player.

"Obviously, that isn't always the key thing in term of whether a player wants to stay or not."

Wyke's departure means that Sunderland are seeking to strengthen their forward line regardless of whether MK Dons are able to conclude a deal, but Grigg's future will clearly impact to what extent Johnson feels the need to bolster his ranks beyond that.

ELLIOT EMBLETON'S FUTURE

Speaking at the weekend, Blackpool boss Neil Critchley confirmed that his side were still monitoring developments on Embleton's future.

Discussing the Black Cats youngster, as well as former Nottingham Forest loanee Jordan Gabriel, Critchley said: "When the players aren’t yours, the decision isn’t yours either because you’re governed by what other clubs think about them and decide. It’s never in your hands.

“Elliot is back at Sunderland and Jordan is back at Nottingham Forest and I’m sure they will be trying to impress in pre-season to try and get in their team.

“We’ll keep an eye on them, that’s for certain.”

Sunderland are eager to keep Embleton, with Johnson urging him to force his way into the side and earn a new long-term contract over the next few months.

It will be up to Blackpool, or any other club, putting a major offer on the table to change the situation.

At this stage, that looks unlikely.

WHAT NEXT FOR CLUB’S YOUNGSTERS

Dan Neil is one of the youngsters enjoying a major opportunity to impress in pre-season.

Johnson will have a decision to make as the pre-season campaign develops as to whether they are ready to be part of the senior squad on a permanent basis, or whether a loan move is the best option.

Josh Hawkes is another of the players in that category after a stellar campaign at U23 level, though his progress was slowed by an injury he appeared to pick up in the warm up at Spennymoor Town.

Johnson will also have to decide whether there are any other youngsters he wants to look at more closely, with Ellis Taylor particularly impressive in that opening game.

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