Kristjaan Speakman explains the transfer and recruitment challenges facing Sunderland

Sunderland’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman says the club will scout players across the globe this summer – but admits there are big challenges ahead of the transfer window.

Sunday, 7th March 2021, 11:31 am

Speaking with Football Transfer Forum’s monthly webinars, Speakman suggested the Black Cats will use a data-led approach to identify the best talent.

Since Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ takeover deal was completed last month, Sunderland have advertised two jobs – lead data scientist and head of analysis and data - as they look to rebuild their scouting department.

When discussing the upcoming transfer window and the club’s recruitment strategy, Speakman said: “First of all, we’re in a really difficult position for two reasons.

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Sunderland’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.
Sunderland’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.

“One is, we don’t have any recruitment staff, so there’s your first one. Second one is, we don’t know which league we’re going to be in. So you’ve got that balance.

“At the minute we’ve built out a structure and a framework as to what League One looks like and what the Championship looks like, we’re just going through a process of building a recruitment team behind the scenes.

“You’ve probably seen that we’ve got some analysis and and some data jobs out there that we’re recruiting for at the minute to underpin that but I don’t want to disappoint all of our agent friends that are on the call today but whilst we’ve got an owner who is obviously financially viable, we won’t be going down a win-at-all-costs, spend-at-all-costs strategy, it just won’t be that.”

If Sunderland don’t win promotion this season, Speakman says the club are in a good position to attract the best players at League One level.

The Black Cats’ Sporting Director also believes the Wearsiders would be able to have a ‘very competitive’ salary structure if they are promoted to the Championship.

“We won’t focus on the UK, we’ll use a data and evidence led approach to make sure we canvas all areas of the globe to try and find the best talent for Sunderland. That’s where we’ll be at,” Speakman added.

“I think in League One, with all due respect to the rest of the teams, if we have a meeting with a player and his representative about coming to Sunderland versus any other club, I’d like to think we’re in the box seat. I think that states the benefit that we have.

“On the flip side of that, as a Championship club, our whole revenue to cost matrix completely shifts because hopefully we’ll have 40,000 people in the stadium, which again is something that not a lot of other Championship clubs have.

“So all of a sudden our break even line moves quite considerably in the Championship and we can therefore have a salary structure for the first team that should be very, very competitive.

“So I think we’re quite fortunate in terms of which avenues we go down, the issue we have is the timeline between knowing where you’re going to be and also our squad has a high number of players out of contract in the summer.”

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