GUS POYET says Sunderland have to take a patient approach with any contract renewals, due to the club’s precarious league position.
Nine members of Sunderland’s first-team squad are out-of-contract at the end-of-the-season, with Jack Colback, Keiren Westwood, Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena, Craig Gardner, Seb Larsson, Ji Dong-won, Phil Bardsley and David Vaughan all able to leave for nothing next summer.
Head coach Poyet admits that number is a worry – particularly with three players on loan at the Stadium of Light too – and discussed the issue at his meeting with director of football Roberto De Fanti last week.
But with second-bottom Sunderland still firmly entrenched in a relegation battle, Poyet believes those who are nearing the end of their deals appreciate that the Black Cats cannot make any hasty financial commitments.
Poyet told the Echo: “We’ve started talking about it.
“I think, in this situation, the players are clever enough to realise it’s going to take time.
“We might not be able to do it earlier because, at the end of the day, we don’t know where we’re going to be.
“I think, for the players, it’s good as well. We can see how they do.
“Those who play week in, week out, will have it easier than those who are not.
“But overall, yes, we’ve got too many players who are out of contract and we’ve got to slowly start sorting it out.”
Colback is already attracting attention, with Everton and Hull among those clubs to be keeping tabs on the Academy product’s situation.
As the Echo revealed yesterday, the 24-year-old is taking his time over re-entering contract talks after rejecting Sunderland’s offer of a new deal during the summer.
But Poyet is relaxed over the situation and says if anyone does leave Sunderland on a free transfer, it will not be due to the Black Cats failing to make their intentions crystal clear.
“Depending on who you are, you might get a contract quicker than others,” he added.
“But we are in constant contact with the players. Every player knows where he stands.
“If someone goes and signs a new contract with someone else, it will be his decision, but he will know exactly where he was with us. It’s not like we’ll leave them and lose them.
“I’m calm. If I was a player here I’d be calm too. They know where they’re standing. That’s the way I work. I hate promising things.
“I don’t want to tell players they are going to be here for 10 years and then we offer him a six-month contract.
“I tell him the truth of how much he counts for me, what is his standing, what opportunity he’ll have and what he needs to do if he wants to stay here.”
H Kevin Friend will referee Sunderland’s game at Stoke on Saturday – his first match in charge of the Black Cats this season.