'Lifted the club': Sunderland legend delivers his verdict on Lee Johnson, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and the club's transfer plans
Former Sunderland defender Gary Bennett has hailed the impact of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Lee Johnson on Wearside.
Johnson was appointed head coach at the Stadium of Light in December, while Louis-Dreyfus finalised his purchase of a majority stake of the club in mid-February.
And while the duo – working closely with the club’s new-look executive team – were unable to secure promotion from League One, Bennett was left impressed by their early actions at the club.
"I am indeed,” he told The Echo, when asked if he was excited about the future under Louis-Dreyfus and co.
"You look at the way they've worked - they've not dived in feet first.
"They've gone in, looked at things, put people in place and I think they've already said they're not going to splash the cash.
"They're going to build on what they're creating and hopefully they can bring quality players. It's wheeling and dealing - you look at the team at present and we have the foundations there.
"We know where we need to improve, we have some good young players, and it's just getting that blend of young players and some experience.”
Sunderland will have the chance to build upon their squad having released seven players following the conclusions of their contracts.
This summer will give Johnson and sporting director Kristjaan Speakman their chance to make their mark on the side – and Bennett believes there are two good examples that the Black Cats can follow when it comes to recruitment.
“I think everybody knew that it was going to be a clean slate,” he admitted.
"You look at where the club are and we've been in this division for three years now. It's a reality check, isn't it? We've got to cut our cloth accordingly.
"You look at other clubs in this division, for instance Blackpool, the way they're wheeling and dealing and the players they've been able to get into the club.
"And you look at Lincoln - we talk about recruitment and the scouting system - we need to try and get these players in on loan.”
The Black Cats’ 2020/21 campaign ultimately ended in disappointment, with the side losing out to Lincoln City in the play-off semi-final.
And while it was not the end of the season that anyone had hoped or planned for, Bennett remains enthused by head coach Johnson – and is looking ahead to the new campaign with optimism.
"It's been a strange season and it was disappointing with the play-offs,” said the former Sunderland skipper.
"The first 45 minutes of the second leg we turned it around and you're thinking 'are we going to go on and win the game?'. Then, for some reason, we struggled.
“We just couldn't get going in the second half which was disappointing.
"You have to say that Lee Johnson has come in and he picked everybody up, picked the club up a bit, and gave us an opportunity or a chance. But unfortunately we just couldn't get over the line.”