The state of play at Sunderland AFC explained from takeover to transfers

Sunderland’s League One season kicks off in 43 days time and there remains much to be sorted on Wearside.

By Phil Smith
Friday, 21 June, 2019, 16:23

With the fixture list handing the Black Cats a tricky start to the season, supporters will be eager to see the club strengthen in the coming weeks.

It has been a quiet summer since the heartbreak of the play-off final against Charlton Athletic, with takeover talks dominating club business.

Stewart Donald is in talks over a partial sale of his Sunderland shares

So where do the Black Cats stand?

We take a look….THE TAKEOVER

There had been hope that Mark Campbell’s takeover would go through this week but it now seems set to continue into the next seven days.

Talks, over the deal itself and the future of the club, have been positive, with Campbell on Wearside in recent days to hold talks with Stewart Donald and staff.

Donald has told supporters on social media that he will be staying at the club after the deal is complete and will retain a significant stake.

Talks are ongoing but are at an advanced stage and so despite the lengthier-than-hoped process, there is no concern about the outcome at this stage.

TRANSFERS

Donald has assured fans on social media that work is being done to strengthen the Black Cats squad.

Responding to a question about additions on twitter, he said: “There are sure to be a number of them. Just doing my usual haggling.”

Reece James’ surprising departure on Wednesday was a sign of the work being done behind the scenes to balance the squad ahead of the new campaign.

Jack Ross returned to the Academy of Light earlier this week and is pressing on with preparations for the football side of the club.

There is no doubt, however, that the major issue on Wearside is the takeover and significant business is highly unlikely until that is resolved and completed.

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The big question will then be to what extent Ross’ budget and strategy is affected or altered by the new ownership structure.

With John Park heavily linked to then join the club as Director of Football, there are a number of significant recruitment issues to be addressed even as the new campaign draws ever closer.

Of course, with a significant wage budget already in place, it seems unlikely that in the short term at least, there will be a major change to what resources Ross is working with.

The current owners have always been clear that extra financial clout will be vital if the club returns to the Championship, rather than as a short-term requirement to succeed in League One.

When Ross is in a position to make his significant foray into the market, there will then be two key factors at play.

One, the clear need to improve the squad that fell short of promotion last year.

In particular, there will be a desire to add greater pace in the final third and also greater defensive stability.

At the back, the regular changes in partnerships was in stark contrast to the sides who eventually finished above the Black Cats.

Sunderland, though, have a big squad and James’ move to Doncaster is an indication that it cannot simply be one-way traffic this summer.

Ross wants to strengthen and there are clear gaps to fill but it is also worth remembering that he can pick two full sides from those currently contracted to the club.

The Black Cats boss does not want a squad significantly bigger than that and so if players arrive, there will also be departures.

Ross will want to add to his squad in key areas but he will also be keen to have a full pre-season working closely with many of the players who still have more to offer in a Sunderland shirt.

Top of that list will be Will Grigg who will hope to make an impact after a disappointing start to his Black Cats career.

Takeover talks will unquestionably leave Sunderland with a lot of work to do in a shorter window than ideal. They will at least benefit from a longer window this year, running right through ‘til the end of August.

Sunderland will move in the market this summer but for all concerned, an element of patience will be required.