Kristjaan Speakman sheds light on Ross Stewart signing and Sunderland's recruitment strategy after summer departures
Sunderland’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman says planning for this summer’s recruitment drive started months in advance – with the club targeting quality over quantity.
The Black Cats brought in nine new players for the 2021/22 campaign – with seven of them under the age of 24.
Sunderland also allowed several first-team players, many of whom were out of contract, to leave the club as they rebuilt the squad.
Last season’s top scorer Charlie Wyke, 28, was one of the names who left Wearside, yet Sunderland felt they had a capable replacement in Ross Stewart, who moved to the Stadium of Light from SPL side Ross County in January.
Speaking to the SAFC Unfiltered podcast, Speakman said: “The planning for the window started last January and I think when we acquired Ross Stewart, we knew where Charlie was at the time and that Ross was going to have limited opportunity.
“We felt that first of all in the summer you wouldn’t have been able to get a Ross Stewart for the type of transaction we got him for in January. Therefore you are already planning for that next phase and trying to reduce the amount of work you are doing in the summer.
“I think you have to be a lot more diligent with your planning from a lot further out than just waiting until you get to the window opening in early July.
“I understand fans’ concern at the start of the window because naturally everybody looks around at what is going on and the norm is that people are signing players.
“We had a really clear idea about who we wanted to go for and we wanted to go for a smaller streamline squad of quality over quantity. When you do that you have to be really precise with those signings because you have less room for error.”
In total, Sunderland allowed ten senior players to leave the club following the 2020/21 campaign, and the initial process to find replacements was a drawn out one.
Yet Speakman believes the club’s patience has paid off, with the Black Cats able to bring down the age of their squad.
“We did let a group of players go which was potentially risky but we felt that to change the philosophy, the dynamic of the squad and average age that would have to be done,” he added.
“The average age this year is 24.8. I think last year it was just over 28. We had some games where we were just short of 29. If you look at that it’s a huge difference of what the squad dynamic looks like.
“You would always like a disney-like storyline where you sign who you want to sign in the right order but that’s just not reality.
“I think what the football club needs is it needs calm, concise leadership from the top and that has got to be in line with the strategy we are trying to achieve.
“Naturally, we rely on fans to attend games and support the football club and we want fans to buy into what we are doing.”