Release or retain? Verdict on the BIG contract decisions facing Sunderland

Sunderland will finally learn their League One fate this week with a key vote set for Tuesday – with attentions then turning to contract talks and planning for next season.

Monday, 8th June 2020, 2:42 pm

EFL clubs are in limbo and have been for three months ahead of the crunch meeting and vote early this week, with clubs in the third tier voting to either resume the 2019-20 season or curtail it with the table and promotion/relegation issues then decided on a points-per-game basis.

Sunderland’s only chance of winning promotion is if the season does restart but that looks increasingly unlikely so they will soon be able to start planning for next season, with 11 players out of contract at the Stadium of Light this summer.

Who should be released and who should the club look to retain? Our team of Sunderland writers deliver their verdicts:

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The Sunderland players celebrate a goal earlier in the season.


It’s a tricky one to answer because my opinion would shift slightly depending on what division Sunderland are in next season.

There are some you would like to see resolved either way.

Jon McLaughlin is the obvious one who would be an asset in either division.

Bailey Wright, too.

Chris Maguire probably comes into that category but he has the option of an automatic one-year extension, so I don’t see too many issues on that one.

Theoretically, Josh Scowen should be an asset whatever happens but in truth, I just haven’t seen enough of him to make a definitive judgement.

If the Black Cats are in League One, I’d like to see Ethan Robson get a new deal and a proper go. Budgets are going to come down so why not give a homegrown talent a go?

Duncan Watmore I would like to see stay, but that comes with the very obvious caveat that there is a difficult conversation surrounding finances with that one.

Alim Ozturk and Tom Flanagan have done well for Phil Parkinson, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t look to keep them if it is to be another campaign in League One.


The good news for Sunderland is that the future of one key man in Luke O'Nien is already secure, with a clause in his deal having already been triggered. Chris Maguire, who has a similar clause in his contract, is also likely to stay.

But there remain a number of question marks.

Some decisions are clear-cut. Jon McLaughlin should undoubtedly be kept if possible, while I'd also argue that the versatile Tom Flanagan should be high on the agenda for receiving a new deal.

So too should Josh Scowen who, although we are yet to see the full extent of his abilities on Wearside, could prove a key player next term. I'd also look to Bailey Wright on a permanent deal if - as expected - he is released by Bristol City.

Then come the harder calls. I'd expect to see Joel Lynch released, but what of Alim Ozturk? If Sunderland remain in League One, he could prove a valuable option.

In midfield, there are real doubts over Ethan Robson's future. The academy graduate needs first-team football and, given Phil Parkinson is unlikely to be able to offer any such promises, I'd expect to see him depart.

Duncan Watmore will likely follow a similar fate, with his contract the last one dished out during the Premier League era. One interesting decision will be that of Kyle Lafferty who, while I would look to keep, may prove a difficult deal to finalise from a financial perspective.

In terms of loanees, I think it would be a real surprise to see Declan John back on Wearside next season. Antoine Semenyo may yet be given another chance having shown glimpses of his potential.

Much, though, will depend on Tuesday's vote - and whether Sunderland will be consigned to another season of third tier football.


Major change is coming at Sunderland this summer.

With the League One season likely to be curtailed on Tuesday given there does not appear to be the support needed from elsewhere to resume the campaign, the club is facing a third season in the third tier.

Once the decision over this season is finally made, the club can make decisions on contracts for those nearing an end.

And there are now 11 players whose deals run out later this month, following the earlier exit of defender Tommy Smith.

Who should the club look to keep?

Jon McLaughlin's contract situation should have been sorted six months ago but here we are with the keeper seemingly edging nearer to a move to Blackburn Rovers.

He is one Sunderland should have definitely looked to keep but it seems his two-year spell is soon coming to an end.

Luke O'Nien's future was secured after a clause was triggered, while Chris Maguire has probably done enough to earn a new one-year deal.

Elsewhere, one of the club's longest serving players Duncan Watmore will likely move on to pastures new unless he was willing to accept a much-reduced salary.

Declan John and Antoine Semenyo will leave after their loan deals expired, neither made an impression.

I'd like to see Josh Scowen, Bailey Wright, Ethan Robson and Alim Ozturk handed new deals but I'd be surprised if Kyle Lafferty and Joel Lynch extended their stay on Wearside.

Elsewhere, Tom Flanagan divides fans but he has done okay under Phil Parkinson. However, after two years in the third tier, big changes are needed if Sunderland are to mount a promotion push next season.

That much is clear.