The Sunderland contract situations that need addressing this summer and what fans can expect

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There is a lot to sort at Sunderland this summer over and above the appointment of a new head coach

While the search for a new head quite rightly dominates the headlines on Wearside, it's also the start of a crucial summer for Sunderland and there are already some crucial contract storylines beginning to bubble away.

So what deals might be on the club's radar this summer and what can fans expect? We run you through...

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JACK CLARKE

One of Sunderland's most obvious and yet in truth, any prospect of a new deal seems remote. Clarke is now entering the final two years of his contract and while that means the Black Cats can stand firm in terms of rejecting any offers that fall below their valuation over the next couple of windows, they know that his value is now at its peak. They broached the subject of a new deal last season as a result, but the gap between the two parties was fairly vast and there remains no great confidence that it can be bridged this summer. Sunderland have a strict wage budget that they will not waver from even as they gradually lift it over time, and so an extension appears unlikely.

Clarke loves it at Sunderland and is in no rush to leave, while the Black Cats would clearly prefer to keep him, but the current impasse means they'll almost certainly do business if a significant bid arrives from a top-tier club. That would be a worrying development for fans given the team's reliance on him for attacking output last season.  

DAN NEIL

Though Neil only signed a new deal last summer, he is in a similar boat to Clarke in that he now has two years to run and a host of admirers from the Premier League. Sunderland have therefore moved quickly to open talks on a fresh deal for a player who they want to at the heart of their side next season. It's a pro-active move and to the club's credit, the kind of planning that has been significantly more evident since the new regime took charge.

Understandably, Neil is not ready to commit at this stage and has knocked back the initial offer. There's a huge amount of uncertainty at the club given the disastrous end to last season and the so far troubled search for a new head coach. Expect another bid to be made when that is (surely?!) sorted over the course of the next couple of weeks. Neil's primary ambition has always been to lead Sunderland back to the Premier League and so there remains optimism that a deal can be done, but he'll be well aware of the top-tier interest and won't commit if he doesn't think the Black Cats are on the path to promotion in the coming campaigns.

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CHRIS RIGG

Rigg can sign his first professional deal from the moment he turns 17 later this month, and Sunderland remain hopeful that he will choose to do so. As one of the most highly-rated youngsters in the country, interest from elsewhere remains significant.

Rigg is one year into a two-year scholarship, and so Sunderland will be compensated with a transfer fee even if the youngster opts to move elsewhere somewhere along the line, but only signing him to a professional contract will give them full protection. Rigg wants to play senior football and knows Sunderland is probably the best place for that, but like Neil he is keeping his options open with so much up in the air at the club. He'll likely make a decision when the new boss is in situ and he can gain greater clarity over where he stands in the plans and what next season will look like.

DAN BALLARD

Ballard signed a new deal last summer and so Sunderland are incredibly well protected against any transfer interest that might emerge this summer, with three years still left to run at that contract. Still, Ballard's progress has been rapid and after a strong, injury-hit campaign he has emerged as one of the leaders of the team. It would be no surprise to see Sunderland look to reward that and to further protect themselves against the inevitable top-tier interest. International team mate Trai Hume looks to be on a similar trajectory and also signed a four-year deal last summer, but the club have the option of a year extension in that case and so are unlikely to make any moves at this juncture.

ELLIOT EMBLETON

Embleton has one year left on his current deal and there's no doubt at his best he would be either an asset to the squad or a player who could attract significant EFL interest and bring in revenue for the club were he to depart. Embleton is expected to be fit for pre-season as he bids to make his comeback from a frustrating 18 months with injury. Both parties will likely want to see how he progresses and what his prospects of regular football are before making any further decisions, so this will be one to watch in the latter stages of the summer.

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OTHER ONES TO WATCH

There are a few other contract situations which would well develop over the course of the summer. Dennis Cirkin has two years left on his deal and there's no doubt that fit and firing, he'd be a huge asset to the team  and a player the club would want secured to a longer contract. The first task for him is to get back to full sharpness and win his place back in the team, from which point more discussions could follow.

Jay Matete also has two years left on his deal but similarly to Elliot Embleton, it seems most likely that both club and player will want to see how his recovery from more injury frustration goes and how prominent a role he's likely to have in the squad before making any further decisions.

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