There are a significant number of senior players in the final weeks of their contract, and five loan players who have made an impact at some stage across the season.
Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman is holding talks with the players in question, with the retained list expected to be released later this week.
Alex Neil has offered his input into the decisions, as he steps up preparations with Speakman and head of recruitment Stuart Harvey. Harvey has been researching potential targets in recent weeks and months should the club win promotion, and that work steps up again now.
Clearly, it will be impacted in part by who from the current group stays and who moves on.
Here, we run you through the decisions to be made and what to expect…
1. THORBEN HOFFMANN
Hoffmann revealed in his Kicker column last month that the clause to turn his loan deal into a permanent one was contingent not just on Sunderland winning promotion, but on him making 25 league appearances. In the end he fell just short of that number, and so he is not expected to be listed as under contract on the retained list. It will then as a result be down to player and club as to whether they pursue a deal. Hoffmann started the campaign well and showed his promise, and was unfortunate to see COVID-19 affect his progress at the end of the year. Anthony Patterson took his chance and grew in stature as the defence in front of him improved significantly under Alex Neil. Hoffmann will take much from the campaign after taking the brave step to test himself abroad in a new league. Patterson’s emergence may have made his Sunderland future less clear but he will be the better for a rollercoaster of a year.
Photo: PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANK REID JPIMEDI
2. LEE BURGE
Burge was a key part of Sunderland’s run to the Carabao Cup quarter finals this year and has proved a steady operator over three years at the club. Complications with COVID meant he was unable to play a part in much of the run-in but he is now back to full fitness ahead of a crucial summer.
Photo: FRANK REID 2021
3. CALLUM DOYLE
Even a brief cameo at Wembley showed Doyle’s quality, stepping away from two players at one point to open up the pitch and relieve pressure. Though his game time declined towards the end of the campaign, this was ultimately a hugely successful loan for the youngster. He played more games than anyone had envisaged when he first joined and for the most part thrived. Sunderland will look to bolster this position but there’s no reason why another year on loan at a higher level wouldn’t work for all parties. That, though, will be a decision for Man City who will have a very detailed development plan for Doyle. They will want him to play, so there would likely have to be significantly more detailed talks with Sunderland and Neil as to where he would fit in, were it to be explored.
Photo: FRANK REID 2021
4. JORDAN WILLIS
Willis has made significant progress in his recovery from the patellar tendon injury which has kept him out for well over a year. The defender recently started doing some work on the grass, as he begins the road back to what will hopefully be full fitness. That Willis is a player with Championship attributes and potential is clear; he was by a distance one of Sunderland’s best signings of the League One area. The next step is important though because when fit he needs regular minutes to get back to his best. Whether he would get that at Sunderland remains to be seen.
Photo: FRANK REID 2020