MARTIN O’Neill has revealed he is already drawing up plans for change as Sunderland head into the summer.
But he says he will not thrash out the details of who he wants, or will be able to afford to bring in, until he sits down with owner Ellis Short for a series of meetings in which the road ahead will be plotted and agreed.
O’Neill has been in charge of the club for five months now and has successfully completed his initial brief of keeping the club in the Premier League for a fifth successive campaign.
He is currently occupying himself with the challenge of trying to match or beat Sunderland’s 10th place finish and 47 points from last season.
But beyond that is a restructuring of the squad which the manager knows is essential if the club is to progress.
Though the Irishman always plays his cards close to his chest in terms of transfer dealings, he told the Echo: “We haven’t actually planned a date for when we sit down and talk things through, but I should imagine that will happen towards the back end of the season, sometime around those last couple of games.
“We will find a convenient moment and we’ll sit down and have a chat about it. It is something he is encouraging.
“I think we now have a fair idea of what we want to do in the transfer market, if it’s at all possible.”
O’Neill said he is anxious not to lead anyone up the garden path in terms of what might or might not be happening, but insists keeping the best players at the club is very much a starting point going into the close season.
He said: “I really don’t want to go down the road of telling people that this is set in stone or that is set in stone and then find myself being put on the spot a few months later when this happens or that happens.
“The modern game moves so quickly that just about anything can happen.
“But I’m happy to say the owner agrees with me that we want to keep our very best players at the club because we are looking to build something here and move forward.
“You don’t tend to do that if you’re selling your best players.
“We have a squad in a process of development. We have a lot of work to do.
“And I think it is clear that we need to strengthen. We remain very much a club that is looking to go forward.”