Sunderland's Sporting Director delivers verdict on League One campaign and the new regime's progress so far

Kristjaan Speakman says Sunderland are 'moving in the right direction' as they seek to implement a new philosophy on and off the pitch.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 5:00 am
Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman

A superb unbeaten run saw the new regime secure a Papa John's Trophy win at Wembley and raise hopes that the club could seal automatic promotion from League One at the third time of asking.

But a significant drop in form means Sunderland will once again have to go through the play-off if they are to return to the Championship.

The Black Cats travel to Lincoln City next Wednesday for the first leg of their semi final, before the return fixture at the Stadium of Light on Saturday May 22nd.

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While conceding that there is scope for improvement, Speakman said he was 'happy' with the general progress of the club.

The Sporting Director believes a pre-season campaign will be key to accelerating the development of the side under Lee Johnson.

"I'm happy in terms of where we sit at the end of the season," Speakman told the club's #SAFCUnfiltered podcast.

"You'd always want to achieve more and I'd never want to think we were satisfied.

"There's been so many things to do you're always going to look back from May retrospectively and think we could have done that and that better, but without providing excuses you've also got to understand the scale of the task and the project.

"We're trying to deliver on multiple areas of the operation all at the same time. Within that, things are going to go slower, some things will go faster and some things you'll be really happy with.

"What we've seen in the team is some trends in some of the data and statistics that the team have been able to deliver the philosophy that we're after. Have we nailed it? Of course not.

"It's incredibly difficult to ask a coach to come in blind, half-way through the season and go 'right, we need to change all these things and we need to win every game'. We appreciate that's the expectation but at the same time we feel that we're moving in the right direction.

"Once we get into a pre-season, we'll hopefully be able to move forward even quicker."

Speakman has overseen a significant rebuild of the club's footballing structure, making a number of crucial appointments.

That is set to continue through the summer, with the Sporting Director saying that process is still only around 60% complete.

As such, he says there is still a long way to go in what is a long-term project.

He said: "We've only progressed a little bit in terms of what would be the grand plan.

"I appreciate we live in an era whereby everyone wants everything instantaneously, but I also think that having spoken to a lot of people who are Sunderland fans in the community they understand the size of the task and how we're trying to go about it.

"It's a long-term project and we want to deliver in the long-term but also short-term returns at certain points in time. We're trying to deliver for those people and hopefully they stick with us.

"We'll articulate messages as much as we can and we're always open to taking questions and feedback."

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