Sunderland squad rebuild a daunting prospect but clarity behind the scenes gives Jack Ross a chance

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Sunderland fans could be forgiven for being just a touch restless.

New owner Stewart Donald has revealed that ‘very, very few’ players in the current squad have expressed a desire to play for the club in League One next season.

Stewart Donald

Stewart Donald

As of yet, however, only those out of contract have departed and no incoming deal has been confirmed.

The players are due back for pre-season training in around a fortnight and the League One fixture list will be announced shortly before that.

This is a club where false starts have become a depressingly regular part of the routine and a key reason why truly successful seasons have not virtually non-existent in the last decade or so.

Certainly, it is going to present a challenge for new manager Jack Ross.

He will have a hefty budget, probably the biggest the division has ever seen, but he will know that is only part of the puzzle.

Building a balanced squad, and a united one, are more important factors than spending alone and the more time Ross has to work with his players, the better.

The earlier transfer deadline this season also looms large.

Ross, of course, also knows that work on incoming transfers will be affected, at least in part, by outgoings. It is not essential that players are moved on in order for him to recruit, but it will clearly help.

Certainly, the club are only likely to commit funds to a certain level, while significant earners from the Premier League era remain on the books.

All things considered, it is a slightly daunting prospect.

There are reasons for optimism and excitement, nevertheless.

It is worth remembering, for example, that this time last year Ellis Short was still negotiating an eventually doomed takeover bid and Simon Grayson was still 17 days away from taking charge as manager.

When he was finally unveiled, he joked that if incoming deals did not happen soon, he might have to field a five-a-side team in early friendlies.

While there was some early progress, he was left to do a lot of business towards the end of the window and his efforts to build a cohesive team never got going.

Ross has at least already had time to speak to targets, ascertain their availability. He is believed to have made good progress on that front.

He will also benefit from the appointment of Tony Coton as head of recruitment, one that looks to be a sound move.

The new regime had initially looked to appoint a manager with League One experience. Part of the reason for that was that they would bring a strong working knowledge of that market.

In the end, Ross was such a neat fit, when it came to all other criteria, that they compromised and landing Coton, who has extensive experience of the Football League market, is a big boost.

Ross has final say on all transfers and gave his firm backing to Coton’s appointment.

As with last summer, the extent to which Sunderland can move on players, on their terms, will define whether next season is a success or not.

It is sure to be a long, busy and, at times, tense pre-season.

There is much to do, but it has been a promising start.

While there may be uncertainty on the pitch, off it Sunderland have more clarity than they have enjoyed for a number of years.

That is hugely significant.