Sunderland will be faced with a summer of rebuilding after years of failure

Sunderland's John O'Shea
Sunderland's John O'Shea
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Since Sunderland returned to the Premier League and Niall Quinn was in charge, the club have always had provisions in case the dreaded drop occurred.

That remains the case almost a decade on.

Player contracts will be littered with various clauses in the event of relegation. Some will be to the club’s benefit and some may not.

It is increasingly clear that Jermain Defoe falls into the latter category, likely to be available at little to no cost come the summer.

Relegation was always likely to lead to his departure and most Sunderland fans not only accepted that, but were braced to send him off with their best wishes.

Should Defoe stay in the Premier League, any goals he scored will be met with a flurry of appreciative and supportive tweets and comments.

What will rankle, is losing him for well below his value, even at 34 years of age. It does all add context to why West Ham were putting such clearly derisory fees on the table in January.

It will work both ways, even if Defoe will clearly be the most discussed headline.

Many players are likely to have wage cuts written into their deals, which will be crucial to Sunderland’s finances should they be unable to move squad members on Premier League money to new clubs.

The wage bill is already prohibitive and eats up the vast majority of the substantial TV money Sunderland receive, an income stream that would all but vanish in the event of relegation.

Whatever happens in the next 10 games, it will be a summer of great uncertainly, and undoubtedly of major change.

Both John O’Shea and Seb Larsson have been discussing their futures on international duty this week, two of many whose deals expire in the summer.

Jan Kirchhoff, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar and Joleon Lescott will also see their deals come to an end, and if Sunderland do beat the drop few are likely to remain.

Sunderland would also in all likelihood be open to offers for a vast proportion of the current squad.

Add to that the departure of the current crop of loan players, Jason Denayer, Javier Manquillo and Adnan Januzaj, and a skeleton squad remains.

It underlines the scale of the rebuilding job required.

Jermain Defoe’s contract extension was signed amid of mood increased optimism that under Sam Allardyce, relegation flirtations would be over.

The sequence of events since then have been a tragicomedy of bad luck and missteps.

The structural issues that predated the former England manager were never dealt with, and this summer will finally have to be confronted.

It is a club braced for turbulence.