Kristjaan Speakman outlines Sunderland's next steps in dealing with looming contract calls
Kristjaan Speakman says Sunderland are drawing up plans to deal with the raft of players who are out of contract this summer.
The vast majority of the current squad see their deals expire at the end of the campaign, and the club's Sporting Director says he is working towards two models, depending on what division Sunderland find themselves in.
"We've already got two squad composition templates, one for the Championship and one for League One," Speakman told the #SAFCUnfiltered podcast.
"It would be remiss of me not to be working on that in my position.
"The process moving forward is to evaluate all those players that are out of contract against both scenarios and then almost have those [plans ready to go], nnd then review and evaluate as we go through the next fifteen games.
"Some are going to be easier decisions than others, maybe because of the age of the player, contract value, where they sit in terms of being inside our outside the salary cap.
"It's just a case of working through them one by one.
"For the senior group, I think they're used to receiving that information fairly late in the season.
"That doesn't mean we necessarily make those decisions late in the season but I think we've got to give those players every opportunity to prove themselves and align themselves with the direction that Lee [Johnson] is taking the group."
Sunderland's plans are complicated significantly by the impact the salary cap would have if they were to fail to win promotion.
When the rules were put in place last summer, the EFL added a transitional clause that meant all players who signed a deal previous to the introduction of the cap would see their salary calculated at a League One average rate.
Most of Sunderland's squad are being calculated at that level this season, but in reality are earning above that.
When they sign a new deal, the rules mean their salary will then be counted in full.
"There'll be some tough decisions in there because we're moving through this transition from our old way of working outside of the salary cap to working within the salary cap," Speakman said.
"I think the players and their representatives know that as well, a lot of players are in that transitional bracket where they're currently earning above the cap but when they come out of contract, they're going to have to fall under it.
"That will be the tricky bit and we will try to get ahead of the game as much as possible."
The Sporting Director says good performances between now and the end of the campaign from those players nearing the end of their deal are in everyone's interests.
"We will go through a period of consultation with the players and the representatives as to where we're at and what it looks like moving forward," he said.
"Ultimately, they're in a position where if they perform well for Sunderland, it's in everyone's best interests.
"At the minute, it's business as usual where these guys are experienced to know that it's about performance. If they're able to develop a high level of performance then it's not just Sunderland who will be interested.
"We will run every scenario that's required to put ourselves in the best position.”