Lee Johnson on Sunderland's next contract steps and why Jack Diamond's new deal was so important
Lee Johnson expects contract discussions to be more protracted than usual right across the game this summer, but says Jack Diamond's new deal shows Sunderland are pro-actively planning to protect their assets.
Diamond committed his future to the club on Wednesday after a breakthrough season at first-team level, and is now contracted until the summer of 2024.
Johnson urged the 21-year-old to focus on improving further in his press conference on Thursday, saying that the winger has all the attributes to be a Premier League player by the age of 26.
Contract negotiations are the remit of Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman, with Johnson not involved in the specifics.
The Head Coach says the financial realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the uncertainty over which division Sunderland will play in next season, complicates the situation in the short term for many of the players in the squad.
"I'm obviously part of the big picture and no one signs without me saying they should," Johnson said.
"The background to it is that there is a lot of work on it. First of all with the budget, what division are we in?
"Then obviously there's things like the pick from season cards, don't forget that the club have effectively not been earning because of the COVID situation.
"Then you've got the players' agents doing their work as they should to allow that player to play as high as they can for as long as they can.
"There is a balance.
"Particularly this year I think the process will be extended out a bit while everyone gets their own house in order, particularly financially, to work out where they are."
Diamond's age and progress put him in a different category to some of his team-mates, and Johnson said the club would be placing a significant focus on protecting key assets in their academy.
Sporting Director Speakman told the supporters' collective meeting last week that the club woul dbe focusing on player pathways in a bid to ensure that the departures from the Academy of Light in the recent past are prevented moving forward.
"It's planning and that has to be the case," Johnson said.
"Of course the lads have to produce and earn that contract, which is what Jack has done.
"It's just the start for Jack. He's got a bright future but only if his attitude remains as strong as it is now. It's essentially an extension of our belief in him and it's up to him, to who knows, go and upgrade it again next year or in 18 months time because he's gone to another level.
"You look all the way throught eh academy and there's a value to that succession planning.
"There's a value in terms of the monetary value, but the bigger value is obviously to the club and the team.
"If they do that enugh, the club then have options because then you get interested parties and big sums ivolved. I've seen that obviously first-hand with over £100 million of sales in my tenure at Bristol City."