Kristjaan Speakman reveals the thinking behind Sunderland's big contract calls as focus turns to transfer deals
Kristjaan Speakman says a desire for a ‘slight change in direction’ was a key factor behind Sunderland’s big contract calls.
The Black Cats announced that they would release seven players following the conclusion of the 2020/21 season, in which the club were defeated in the play-off semi-final.
Max Power, Grant Leadbitter, Chris Maguire, Remi Matthews, Callum McFadzean, Conor McLaughlin and Josh Scowen will all depart when their current deals expire at the end of June.
Sunderland are looking to retain Charlie Wyke, Aiden McGeady, Denver Hume and Luke O’Nien – but even if that quartet put pen to paper, there is a big summer in the transfer market ahead.
Speakman will play a key role in any incomings this summer, and was also part of the decision-making process behind the retained list.
And the sporting director has shed light on how the calls were made, and why a long-term view had to be taken – despite a temptation to stick with the status quo after coming close to promotion in the most recent campaign.
“I think those decisions will always bring scrutiny, because everyone will have a slightly different view on how that player has contributed in a positive or not so positive fashion,” said Speakman, speaking to safc.com.
“What we've tried to do is set out where we want to be, what we want the team to be, and then we've looked and evaluated the players. There's obviously a lot of factors that will go into that.
"The difficult thing with this group is that when you have a group that nearly achieves, the temptation is to try and maintain the status quo,” he continued.
"We just felt that for the long-term benefit of the football club we needed to make a slight change in direction and we felt we would be better served with different players in certain positions.
Speakman was also keen to pay tribute to the seven departing players, many of whom played a key role in Sunderland’s first Wembley success since 1973.
Indeed, the former Birmingham City academy chief feels that the work of the individuals leaving the club will have helped to lay the foundations for future success.
“It's always going to be a difficult decision because you're dealing with people who you've spent a lot of time with in a close proximity,” Speakman admitted. It's never going to be easy to detach yourself from those individuals.
"Supporters see them for the games, we see them every day as colleagues. They have families, their contract in their employment is coming to an end and therefore you have to try and deal with that in the most sensitive manner.
"You've also got to give those guys a huge credit, because it was only a few months ago we were on the train back up from Wembley having won the first cup for the club in almost 50 years.
"We're really grateful for their involvement and a lot of the work done by those guys will be the foundation for hopefully the future success.”