The state of play with every Sunderland player as they return for pre-season training

Sunderland return for pre-season this morning with just five weeks until the League One season begins.

By Phil Smith
Monday, 01 July, 2019, 07:03

It looks set to be a busy period with both incomings and outgoings expected as Jack Ross balances his squad.

Interestingly, Stewart Donald told supporters on Saturday night that the Black Cats boss wants to work with a 20-man squad, supplemented by promising youngsters.

Jack Ross and his players begin pre-season today

So with Donald saying 6-8 signings are needed, turnover is certain.

Here’s where every player stands as they return to the Academy of Light…..

JON McLAUGHLIN

Has been identified as a transfer target by Millwall after their deal for Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski fell through.

The Scot has just one year left on his deal, which may have encouraged Neil Harris that a deal can be struck.

Sunderland know it is pivotal that they keep the Scot, their player of the season last year. He would be exceptionally difficult to replace adequately at this stage.

DONALD LOVE

Pre-season should give Love a chance to stake his claim after injury problems last year.

His wages mean he is a player Sunderland would surely be open to moving on, but it is difficult to see any club moving until he has proven his fitness over a reasonable period of time.

With Luke O’Nien still learning the position, Ross may want to strengthen this area after Adam Matthews was released.

TOM FLANAGAN

His form dipped towards the end of the season but over the course of the season he was arguably Sunderland’s most consistent centre-back. That was some achievement given how little he had played as one of two central defenders for Burton.

Ross is very keen to strengthen the heart of his defence and so it could be that we see more of Flanagan in full-back positions, or as part of a back three as worked well early in the season.

ALIM OZTURK

Finished the season well and so having looked like a prime candidate to move on, now seems set for a chance to kick on in pre-season.

At his best, has shown the physicality Sunderland badly need in this division. The Black Cats want upgrades in this position but Ozturk can prove he should be in the squad.

GLENN LOOVENS

Having not played since before Christmas, he’s a player the Black Cats would offload.

With one year left on his deal, however, he may well stay on to see out his deal and in truth that would not trouble Ross, who has consistently praised his leadership and professionalism behind the scenes.

JACK BALDWIN

Has a lot to do in pre-season after falling out of favour.

At his best his quality stands out, on the ball and in anticipating opposition attacks. The errors were too frequent, though, and Ross gradually settled on safer options.

Baldwin was a big investment by Legaue One standards so Sunderland will be keen to see him improve, but any offer would probably be tempting.

DENVER HUME

The departure of Reece James just underlined how highly Hume is rated.

It is a big campaign for the youngster who has a major opportunity to make that spot his own and kick on for years to come.

He has all the attributes, and now just needs consistency.

BRYAN OVIEDO

Moving Oviedo on would be an important deal for Sunderland in balancing their wage bill and the squad generally.

He played well in patches last year, but not well enough to the level of wages he commands.

As it was last year, the quesition is whether the continental clubs keen on him will be able to find the finances required to make the move happen. His departure may not be straightforward, no matter how inevitable it seems.

Will not return to Wearside today, after his participation for Costa Rica in the Gold Cup.

DYLAN McGEOUCH

Shone in last pre-season and looked set to star.

His quality is not in question but his role in the side very much is.

He admitted after the play-off final that he has a big decision to make and as disappointing as it would be, with so many central midfielders in the squad, he might well be the one to move on.

Crucially, there are plenty of suitors.

ETHAN ROBSON

So unfortunate with injuries last season, this is a defining season.

He has one year left on his deal and much competition in the squad.

But Ross has always said how much he rates him, and he brings height, athleticism and a left-footed option.

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Pre-season looks absolutely vital for him.

LUKE O’NIEN

Will start pre-season as first choice right-back after a hugely encouraging debut season.

Initially looked overawed but began to settle and indeed thrive on that pressure. Looks well placed for another good campaign, though it would be interesting to see if another full back arriving would see him move forward and provide more energy in the final third.

GRANT LEADBITTER

Has vowed to come back next stronger this season and you wouldn’t bet against it.

Sunderland’s midfield needs more height and more energy, to allow Leadbitter’s intelligence and poise in possesion to shine through and hurt opponents.

After playing so little before his January arrival, he’ll relish the prospect of attacking a season fresh and with minutes under his belt.

LEE CATTERMOLE

Has spoken of his desire to play abroad before he retires but settled in the area and at the club, it seems unlikely to be now.

His wages mean there will be continued uncertainty, though Sunderland know he will contribute if he stays after a good campaign last time out.

There has been talk of a reunion with Steve Bruce at Sheffield Wednesday, which would otenitally suit all parties, but the FFP cloud hanging over the Championship side makes it hard to imagine a resolution this summer.

MAX POWER

Started and ended the season very well, though Sunderland will not want to turn to him to fill the number ten role again as he often did.

Is much more effective dictating the game deeper.

Another who will benefit from a full pre-season after arriving late in the window last year.

BALI MUMBA

The EFL Trophy will likely be Mumba’s main source of gametime this year, but Ros will be keen to keep pushing a talent he rates by keeping him close to the first team.

A first loan is possible though it is still perhaps a little soon for that.

GEORGE HONEYMAN

A player who sparks much debate but whose value is clear to Jack Ross.

It would be major surprise if he did not keep the captain’s armband, such is the importance Ross places on his running and unselfish play.

The feeling persists that he is still searching for his best role and regular position.

AIDEN McGEADY

A player whose importance just grew and grew over the season.

Fit and firing, he will be essential as Sunderland push for promotion. There have been questions raised over his future but Ross will be eager to keep him and hope the relationship he has built means that the Irishman is eager to stay.

CHRIS MAGUIRE

A bargain signing last summer whose contributions were vital.

The Black Cats are a better side when he grabs hold of the game in that space behind the striker. If he does it for a full season, Sunderland won’t be far off.

Ross may well be tempted to bring competition in that area to keep him sharp.

LYNDEN GOOCH

A big season for Gooch who sparkled last campaign before badly losing form.

His output early on was remarkable and having become a parent for the first time, the summer break will hopefully have had a positive impact.

DUNCAN WATMORE

Expectations will understandably be tempered as Watmore continues the long road back from those two horror injuries.

His return in the play-offs was a big boost for Jack Ross through, who has long stressed the importance of Watmore not just having a full pre-season, but a proper break before it.

That has not happened for years and so Ross will hope the speedy winger is regularly available this summer.

His pace, direct style and versatility are perfect for the Black Cats boss.

WILL GRIGG

Spoke candidly of his disappointed at failing in League One for the first time last season.

Is determined to bounce back this campaign and if he does, it will be a major weapon for the Black Cats. The onus is also on Sunderland to create more and better chances for him. CHARLIE WYKE

Proved his worth in the second half of last season even if it was obvious he still has more to give.

Like Grigg, a full pre-season will be crucial.