Lee Johnson says Sunderland rebuild starts now as he opens up on what needs to happen next

Lee Johnson said Sunderland’s summer rebuild starts now and pointed to the first-half display on Saturday afternoon as the template moving forward.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 6:55 pm

The Black Cats coach hinted that he expects to be working on a slightly reduced budget this summer, but said that recruiting players who can play at a high-tempo is essential.

Johnson watched his side turn around a two-goal deficit in a superb early display, but they ran out of steam in the second half as Lincoln City regrouped and hit back.

"There’s going to be a natural evolution of the squad now,” he said.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sunderland boss Lee Johnson
Sunderland boss Lee Johnson

"Some players will have played their last game there today for various reasons. Some we may want to keep but can’t afford to, some we might not want and will want to move on, and others we might want to retain and will give them our best offer.

" It’s a sad day because you do build a rapport with these players, but the club has also showed today the potential power we’ve got – the pressing game we played in the first half, the attitude from the fans to get our pressing game going.

"That as 10,000, I can’t wait to see what it’s like when there’s 42,000 in there. I thought the boys gave everything, and that’s obviously a minimum standard, and we played well on the day too.

"You’ve got to give credit to Lincoln for a fantastic season – they’ve used the loan market very well. I think our recruitment becomes the difference, to be honest with you. That is the summer challenge – to make sure, potentially on a slightly reduced budget, that we actually recruit very well.”

“I fully believe in the club, there’s no doubting that,” Johnson added.

"I came into the club knowing how difficult it was going to be. We’ve had an unbelievable run of things that have gone on – some you know, and some you don’t know – and we’ve obviously continued to try to plough away.

"In the background, we’ve got a sporting director and owner working very hard, and a new head of recruitment and data, and that’s a process that’s ever-evolving, but that I don’t have to be involved in until now.

"We will set down and reflect on the season, and have some really honest conversations and be brutally honest about what went well and what didn’t go well. There’ll be changes.

"It’s inevitable there’ll be changes, and the test will be whether we can make those changes for the better.

"Football’s not in a great place, and that could work for us or it could work against us. Inevitably, we’ll be judged by the quality of our recruitment in the summer.”

Johnson said that he knew the expectation was to win promotion, both before the campaign and when he arrived as head coach.

He said that the key to securing that next season was in making the right decisions, both in promoting academy talent and in the transfer market.

Johnson said that elements of his team’s performance on Saturday showed that the club has the potential to be a ‘really powerful beast’ both next season and beyond.

Despite the challenges of recruiting after the damaging impact of COVID-19, Johnson said he was confident that the club could recruit the quality of player required to move the club forward.

“You know the expectation here and in this division, it's to get promoted,” he said.

“At the same time, we've got to make decisions for the long term.

“If we make enough of the right decisions along the way, whether that's promoting the youth player at the right time, recruiting the star number nine, whatever, we make those right decisions and it will come to us.

“You have seen today, if we can harness the power of the fans, use that in our pressing system, we can create really good, high-tempo spectacles.

“Your home form can then be the difference over 23 games.

“We definitely need players who can play at a high-intensity.

“Robust players who can play at that tempo and don't get injured, and the footballing ability as well.

“We've got a great academy and a chance to develop those players.

“We want more and more of them and we've got to supplement them with top players at this level. The size of the club gives us the chance to draw those players in and anyone watching today would see that this could be a really powerful beast.

“Straight away we've got to start.

“No time to rest, no time to feel sorry for ourselves.

"We've got sit down with the board, the Sporting Director, over the next four or five days and get this plan right to go and be successful.

"It's not the day to talk about recruitment but we've got a good team in place and we know, you saw Ross Stewart today, how well he played and the potential he's got, we know we can attract players over that quality.”

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Sunderland AFC coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor