Kristjaan Speakman gives detailed insight into Sunderland's planning for the summer transfer window

Kristjaan Speakman says that uncertainty over which division Sunderland will be playing in next season is 'not an issue' as he makes preparations for the summer transfer window.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 8:00 am
Sunderland's Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman

The Sporting Director has opened up on the recruitment process on the club's #SAFCUnfiltered podcast.

Speakman says extensive planning around squad composition for both League One and the Championship is underway, and said all club's have to be 'flexible and adaptable'.

"You're running a process for player selections and retentions on meeting the philosophy and what we're trying to play," Speakman said.

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"Then you divide that into levels - can that player do what we're asking them to do in the Championship and then League One. "There's obviously going to be a financial element to that because potentially players who want to play in Championship are going to require more money. I don't see it as an issue really.

"Any business has got to be flexible and adaptable and we're no different. We're actually quite fortunate - we know what the two outcomes and parameters are.

"Other businesses who are operating in today's environment, you don't know all of a sudden with coronavirus and it's completely ambiguous.

"For us, it's clear what the two outcomes are going to be and we can plan around the two outcomes. We've got a really robust player recruitment process in there. It causes some anxiety I appreciate because the timeline looks quite short."

Speakman also gave further insight into how the club's recruitment model will operate after the arrival of Stuart Harvey from Blackburn Rovers as Head of Recruitment.

Sunderland s model is to establish player profiles for each position in the squad, to which it will be Harvey's job to establish candidates from a database that uses both traditional and data-led scouting analysis.

"Stuart obviously hasn't been with us very long and he is highly-motivated to try to build a model for us which is both using the subjective and the objective," Speakman said.

"So watching the games and understanding how the players behave on the pitch - because obviously there's a lot of things data doesn't tell you, that you want to get an eye on it to understand body language and things like that. But we want to spread ourselves to be able to analyse and observe as many possible players as we can.

"It stands to reason that if you go down a traditional video route or live scouting route, you've got to watch a lot of games over a lot of hours.

"What we're trying to do is merge those two areas together so we can run data that is specific to us - we're not using a generic tool. So we recently put together our player profiles for each position. They are specific to us and for all the age groups, and built-in to our coaching programme.

"We can then say we need this out of a right-back in the data, and we can then go through a subjective viewpoint of getting different scouts to watch them against an assessment criteria against that profile.

"Then we can start to get to more of a shortlist and sort, prioritise and then run the shortlist through the data again - but maybe you can tweak the dials on certain things to start to really hone down on certain players.

"Ultimately we're looking for the right players for the squad, but we're also looking for value. The players who might perform better than what the eye suggests."

Speakman again insisted that head coach Lee Johnson will have the 'final say' on all incoming players, but stressed the importance of his role in terms of managing both the budget and the development of the squad more generally.

He said: "It's always a question that gets raised because there's always this sort of start point that everyone has a different position.

"If you think about a top-down approach, and an identity that you're trying to create for Sunderland, then you've got this footballing philosophy and then you've got a game model and you're looking for players to fit the game model.

"If we all understand the identity, the football philosophy and the game model then you shouldn't be too far apart on the players you're looking for to fit it. Therefore you're starting to really discuss the various intricacies of that list of players.

"Ultimately, it has to fit a financial model and it has to fit the needs of the squad composition. That's where I'm responsible in terms of making sure the squad composition is correct, it fits in with the succession planning, and it meets the financial elements of either the budget or the long-term planning.

"But then it has to be a player that Lee wants to pick in the team, otherwise there's absolutely zero point. So if you like, the final decision is Lee's.

"We're providing lists and shortlists and then we're trying to adjust," he added.

"It might be we feel they're a player that we want to acquire and then we have to adjust the financials to try to make it work by maybe compensating in other areas.

"That is just working as an effective team. We certainly had that in January with a smaller team of people - mainly myself and Lee - and now we're got the opportunity and the scope to widen that out.

"And the different views are really important, what you don't want in these situations is as the group we convince ourselves that this player is the best solution - it's important we get different views.

"We've just created a model for this transfer window which we'll run, a process that we'll stick to, and therefore we can evaluate back against that."

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