Sunderland transfers, contract talks and squad size: Key summer issues facing Kristjaan Speakman, Lee Johnson & Co under spotlight
A busy summer lies in store at the Stadium of Light with a squad revamp on the cards as Lee Johnson, Kristjaan Speakman & Co target a promotion-winning campaign next season.
Sunderland will release several players when their contracts expire at the end of this month with Grant Leadbitter, Max Power and Josh Scowen all leaving Wearside.
After three failed attempts to win promotion back to the Championship all eyes will be on the business Sunderland will do this summer as they look to build a squad capable of achieving a sustained promotion push.
Our team of SAFC writers, Mark Donnelly and Richard Mennear, look at the three big talking points at the Stadium of Light – contract talks, transfer plans and squad size.
WITH THE TRANSFER WINDOW NOW OPEN, WHAT SHOULD BE SUNDERLAND'S PRIORITY POSITION?
MD: Lee Johnson's squad is looking worryingly sparse in some areas, and it will be in these departments that Sunderland will no doubt be looking to strengthen quickly.
The full-back position is undoubtedly a priority, with no recognised first-team players currently contracted in this area - with both Luke O'Nien and Denver Hume still weighing-up new deals.
Similarly, the centre of midfield will likely be a priority position.
Carl Winchester, Dan Neil and George Dobson are all under contract for the new season but the latter of that trio may depart after his successful loan spell at AFC Wimbledon.
Other areas will certainly need strengthening - particularly in goal and up top - but it's these two departments which look most concerning at present.
Obviously much will depend upon which of the players offered deals commit their futures to the club, but the Black Cats will no doubt have contingency plans in place for the worst case scenario.
RM: Sunderland’s entire spine will likely need rebuilding this summer, especially if Charlie Wyke does not sign a new deal on Wearside.
There is a strong argument for Sunderland to be targeting a new No1 this summer, with Lee Burge not wholly convincing last term, while another first choice centre-back needs to be signed with Jordan Willis facing another year out.
The midfield needs rebuilding with Leadbitter, Scowen and Power all departing. Carl Winchester, Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton will fancy their chances of more minutes next season but clearly rebuilding the midfield and attacking options is a priority.
Should Wyke stay then that will prove a huge boost after his 31-goals but with strong interest from the Championship in him and Luke O’Nien, his future remains very much up in the air.
Sunderland also need new recruits at full-back and in the forward positions. A huge summer rebuild on the cards. And it is needed after three failed attempts.
Sunderland must win promotion next season.
HOW LONG SHOULD THE FOUR PLAYERS OFFERED CONTRACTS BE GIVEN TO DECIDE THEIR FUTURES?
MD: Kristjaan Speakman has already spoken about the need to reduce the timeline on these talks as much as possible, and Sunderland will need clarity on this front in the near future.
That's easier said than done of course, particularly given the interest that is expected to be shown in the four players.
Privately, the club may already be aware - or have an inkling - of which was the talks can go, and will be able to plan appropriately.
But if that is not the case with some of the quartet, then decisions will be needed in a timely manner.
If the players are given a fortnight from this point, that takes us up to near enough a month on from when the retained list was revealed publicly. That should be ample time in which to make a decision.
Sunderland can't afford to wait any longer than that.
RM: The players and their representatives have already had a fortnight and it will likely drag on a little while longer with players on their holidays.
There is also the small matter of seeing what other firm interest emerges elsewhere, with Wyke and O’Nien attracting strong Championship interest.
Those two would be the major concern for possible exits, with Aiden McGeady having spoken glowingly about his hopes to remain on Wearside.
Given Hume came up through the Academy you’d also hope he would pen an extension and fulfil his potential on Wearside, however, there is reported interest in him from Middlesbrough and others, so Sunderland may face a battle there.
It can’t go on much longer though, the players return to training in a few weeks. Another week or two, max.
HOW MANY SIGNINGS DO SUNDERLAND NEED THIS SUMMER?
MD: It's a difficult question to answer at present, given that we still don't know which of Sunderland's out-of-contract players will accept new deals.
And then there are the likes of Will Grigg and George Dobson, who could yet depart on a permanent basis after their temporary exits in January.
But you could probably estimate that at least seven new faces may be sought over the course of the transfer window.
Another senior goalkeeper, at least two more full-backs, two central midfield players, a winger and a striker could well be on Sunderland's wishlist.
Much, though, may depend on the impact made by the club's crop of youngsters in pre-season.
If Josh Hawkes catches the eye, than a winger may no longer be the priority. Similarly the likes of Anthony Patterson Kenton Richardson, Oliver Younger, Dan Neil and Benji Kimpioka could give themselves every chance of forming a regular part of the first-team squad.
But there will undoubtedly be new faces arriving on Wearside, and that process will likely speed-up now the window is officially open.
RM: You’d have to say between 7-9 new faces.
Another goalkeeper, at least two new full-backs, couple of central midfielders, a striker – possibly two should Wyke depart – and a couple of forward/wing options.
Plenty of work to be done. Sunderland will also need an answer on those players offered new terms soon.