The clear message Lee Johnson had for Sunderland's players with expiring contracts and why it's no excuse
Lee Johnson has told the Sunderland players out of contract this summer to use the remaining games as a chance to prove their worth, whether it be on Wearside or elsewhere.
The Black Cats have a raft of players whose deals are set to expire at the end of the campaign, though in a number of cases there is understood to be the option of another year.
Johnson has said that he believes the uncertainty may have played on the minds of one or two players during the current slump, adding that it's entirely understandable for that to happen.
But the Head Coach has also said that the opportunity to win a promotion with Sunderland should be seen as a major incentive for all of his players, who can better their careers by playing a part in a really strong end to the season.
While Johnson conceded there is frustration behind the scenes at the way the club's top-two push fell away, he also insists there is no negativity at the Academy of Light.
"I think it's human nature," he said.
"I think we'd all be the same in that position, but what I would say, and it's the same thing that I have said to the players, is that this this is your vehicle.
"You're well paid at a fantastic club and this is your vehicle to fire you to more success, hopefully with Sunderland. Be a legend in terms of going down in history with a promotion under your belt, and then through that other opportunities, potentially here in a higher division, or other suitors might come and get you anyway.
"I was in that situation as a player once when I was out of contract at Yeovil and ended up going to Hearts.
"I didn't find it a negative, actually.
"I saw it as a positive because I thought, I'm 24 coming into my bosman year, I'm approaching my prime, and if I can show I'm a good player I can have a number of options.
"I found that quite liberating to be honest but of course every player is different.
"There's definitely not negativity around the place, it's more frustration.
"Alright, you can have one or two players who think they should be playing that aren't but there's no negativity, no backstabbing or tittle-tattle or anything like that.
"We've very open and honest.
"We know we've fallen short over this period but at the same time, we know there's an opportunity for a really quick recovery.
"Of course it's one of the considerations but it's certainly not an excuse in my eyes."
Charlie Wyke is one of the players out of contract at the end of the summer, and his goalscoring exploits means he has numerous admirers in the Championship.
Johnson has been clear that he wants to keep the striker.
"Of course I'd love to work with Charlie Wyke next season, but whether that's possible or not I haven't got all the answers for you," he said.
"He's improved as a player over the course of the season, there's no doubt about that.
"I think he's grateful for that and hopefully that will stand us in good stead when the club is ready to sort of challenge for his contract."