Lee Johnson reiterates encouraging Sunderland transfer message after Ross Stewart draws Swansea City interest

Lee Johnson says he remains confident that Sunderland will not sell their best players this month after Ross Stewart was linked with a potential January move to Swansea City.

Saturday, 15th January 2022, 6:00 am

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman told The Echo at the start of the window that there is no intent to sell key assets this month.

That was in response to rumours of interest in Dan Neil from Burnley, but also applies to the current leader of the League One goalscoring charts.

Johnson says internal discussions have given him confidence that stance has not changed.

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Sunderland striker Lee Johnson

He added that if a player was to leave, then it means that another club has paid well over the odds.

There remains doubt over whether Swansea City in particular would be in a position to do that, given that manager Russell Martin said on Friday that the club would have to raise funds in the market to fund a potential move for MK Dons midfielder Matt O'Riley.

Martin is believed to have had a long-standing interest in Stewart from his time at MK Dons, before the Scot made the switch to Sunderland from Ross County.

Stewart's goal against Lincoln City on Tuesday night took to 18 for the season from just 26 games.

"I think one of the parts of a successful window that people undervalue is retaining your best players." Johnson said.

"I've had more experience than most in terms of losing my best players in the transfer window.

"I'm really confident in the discussions we've had internally, that we'll hold on to our best players. I think that should be celebrated.

"It means that if someone does go, then a fee has been paid that is well above market value.

"Therefore that money can used in the squad, and that's the reason I was really happy to join this club. The money goes back into the club and that's a key element to what we're trying to do here.

"We're trying to do it sustainably but every success story along the way will be reinvested in the right places.

"For me, that's powerful."

Stewart's current contract expires in the summer of 2023, but with the option of a further year written into the deal, Sunderland are in a strong position.

Though the sale of key assets will be part of the club's long-term strategy to progress in a sustainable manner, Speakman has said that the focus for Sunderland this month is on strengthening their current options.

An injury to Nathan Broadhead last month means Stewart is currently the only available senior striker at the club.

"We don't need to lose anyone right now," he said.

"The whole purpose of the project is to build those assets within the team, develop that strength in depth.

There's nothing better than having other clubs interested in your players because I think that does suggest some good things are occurring, but we won't be entertaining any of those players leaving in the window.

"Everything for us is motivated on getting Sunderland to where it needs to get to at the end of this season."

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