Stewart Donald's asking price, transfer plans and Bailey Wright: Phil Smith answers your burning Sunderland AFC questions

While the League One season may have come to an early end, the news doesn't stop at the Stadium of Light – where there remain a number of unresolved issues.

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 12:37 pm

From ongoing uncertainty over the club’s ownership to concerns over transfer plans, supporters have plenty of questions about the current state of play at Sunderland AFC.

Here, our Sunderland AFC writer Phil Smith answers your burning questions – which supporters submitted via our breaking news WhatsApp service and social media:

Q: When will the new kit be launched?

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Stewart Donald and Richard Hill

I don’t imagine it will be too long.

Nike have taken over the contract now and we saw the Great Annual Savings group take over as sponsor earlier this week.

So everything is in place and it’s just a case of deciding when they think the best time to announce and promote it is.

Perhaps it makes sense to do that when we are able to look to the new season a bit more, with players coming back from furlough leave to train, and a start date is announced etc.

Both of those aren’t too far away so I don’t think the wait will go on too much longer.

Q: Phil, do you think Donald will back Parkinson in this window, as I feel he won't.

Donald has pledged to ensure Sunderland have the biggest budget in the league next season, and particularly with the salary cap looming, that’s almost certain to be the case.

The way those caps look like being enforced, there will be a transitional period whereby a league average will be calculated and any existing contracts will be judged as at that level.

(So, for example, Sunderland’s players will be paid the same but in the first year of the cap, they will only contribute the average number to the club’s overall figure).

This prevents teams currently over the cap being penalised, but it is also going to limit what clubs do this summer as they begin to prepare.

So I don’t see anyone pushing ahead of Sunderland in terms of budget and this is kind of the point.

At League One level, Sunderland have spent enough in the last two years.

The point is they haven’t done it well enough because the structures and strategy just simply haven’t been there.

It’s that short-termism that is as big an issue, if not more, for many fans than the simple fact that Sunderland haven’t been promoted.

I don’t think it’s necessarily frees and loans that have been the issue, it’s that not enough of them have been a success.

Which in turn has prevented the kind of calculated investment which improves the team in the long run.

So, in short, I think Donald will ensure Sunderland have a significant budget and I expect there will be plenty of signings.

It’s whether they are the right ones that is the question and the concern.

Q: Also anything, absolutely anything of some form of positive news you can give us?

I do think that we’re nearing the point where we’ll at least be able to think about the prospect of watching football again.

It won’t change anything in terms of the bigger picture and the concerns that many have, but it will be welcome.

Q: When will the club start making signings as some League One clubs are already signing players?

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in League One, where most of the business is being done by a handful of clubs.

Bristol Rovers have been very active, and have clearly raised a few eyebrows at Gillingham by swooping for their former captain Max Ehmer.

Blackpool are the other team who are getting a lot of their business done.

Fair play to both, who are giving themselves the best chance of success as they look as if they will have the core of their group in place when they return to training.

That can often make a big difference.

Most other clubs have been waiting for a start date before they begin committing to deals, but things are beginning to gather pace now.

We should have some info on when things will begin over the next week and it seems likely that some form of competitive football will be played in September, whether that is the league programme or some cup fixtures.

That means squads coming back to train in early August, and that means work in the market needs to begin in earnest.

Sunderland are very much in that category and so we should see some action over the next couple of weeks.

There needs to be, without a doubt, as there’s a huge amount of work to be done.

Last week’s developments, with Tony Coton and Richard Hill leaving the club, didn’t look encouraging at face value but I think a lot of work has already been done in terms of identifying targets and sounding out what a deal might look like.

Particularly with regards to Hill, the appointment of Jim Rodwell means it was hard to see what his role would be anyway, given that he primarily was involved in negotiations.

That’s a CEO’s job, anyway.

It’s clear from comments made by both Rodwell and David Jones over the last six months that there is going to be a bit of a different approach and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Q: Do you think Stewart Donald needs to rethink his asking price?

It seems a very high price for a League One club, particularly in the current climate when there is uncertainty about crowds returning, how it will take before we can have full stadiums, etc.

One of the key issues with the price for me is that whoever takes the club not only has to commit a very high level of capital just to do the deal, but will need to then put in significantly more to get the club back to where it needs to be.

It’s not just about transfer fees, it’s about building sections of the club back up that have been heavily depleted over the last couple of years.

The club, remember, still operates at a loss, even if they are coming down as the cost base continues to reduce.

So, yes, you’re getting a lot of major assets when you buy Sunderland.

The Stadium, the academy, etc.

But you’re also taking on significant costs and an obligation to invest in those areas.

Q: Where do things stand with Bailey Wright?

There seems to be complete agreement behind the scenes in terms of those now involved in transfers that Bailey Wright is a deal that needs to be done.

The player himself has said that he wanted to stay earlier this year and even stayed in the region after picking up that serious injury.

It would be a major shock if he wasn’t one if, if not the first, deals that Sunderland do this summer.