The key early hints about Sunderland's summer transfer plans and what fans can expect to see

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Attentions are turning to a crucial summer transfer window for Sunderland

Sunderland are coming to the conclusion of their Championship campaign with thoughts very much turning to what will be a crucial summer rebuild.

A disappointing second half to the campaign has raised the stakes ahead of a vital transfer window, in which the club's recruitment team and hierarchy will be tasked with building a side capable of sustaining a push for the play-offs next season. So what do we know at this stage about their plans and what fans can expect? We break down some of the key questions...

Are Sunderland going to change their recruitment model after a disappointing campaign?

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Sunderland's general strategy of identifying young players with significant potential and giving them significant playing time is simply not to going to change under the current ownership. Whoever is signed this summer, you can expect the Black Cats to once again have one of the youngest sides in the Championship next season. Part of the thinking with the club's summer recruitment will also be to ensure there is a pathway to the team for the club's best young talent.

However, there has also been some recognition behind the scenes that a combination of injuries and suspension left the team at times in this second half of the season too inexperienced to realistically compete at the top end of the table. Sunderland fielded the youngest Championship team in history at one stage, something that interim head coach Mike Dodds says was not by design.

Having taken part in the club's initial recruitment meetings ahead of the summer, where a squad audit took place and some general reflections on the campaign made - Dodds says he feels there will be some slight tweaks to the strategy this summer. Part of this is sheer necessity, Corry Evans and Bradley Dack are set to see their contracts expire at the end of the campaign as things stand and their departure would remove even more experience from the group. Put simply, they have to be replaced.

After a campaign in which many of the club's summer recruits have understandably needed time to adjust to a new division, language and country there appears to be some acceptance behind the scenes that the depth needed to maintain a play-off push has not been there across the course of the season.

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As such, there is some hope that there will be a slight shift to bring in a greater number of players who have a realistic chance of bolstering the XI and hitting the ground running - as the club did so well in the campaign where they were ultimately promoted out of League One. Time will tell, of course - what's clear is that any change will be a tweak, rather than a fundamental overhaul.

Where's the head coach search at and what impact will they have on decision making in the summer transfer window?

Part of the logic of not appointing a permanent successor to Michael Beale immediately was in order to give the club a chance to reflect on what had gone wrong and run an exhaustive recruitment process. You would hope, therefore, that Sunderland will be in a position to move quickly at the end of the campaign.

As explained above, Sunderland's initial meetings did not discuss individual targets but took a broader view on the campaign and the squad and what might be needed. There will be another set of meetings before the end of the campaign, and more thereafter. It's at that point that the head coach will be able to contribute and discuss potential targets, while it is absolutely certain that they will have the chance to give their own feedback on the current group during the interview process.

No player would be signed without the approval of the head coach but it's also the case that the new appointment will be expected to fit into the existing structure, rather than lead it. They will be able to give their input, but the Black Cats won't alter their approach purely based on their new head coach.

What chances of Sunderland landing an established striker this time around?

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In a recent meeting with the supporter collective, Sunderland said they envisaged it being a challenging market again for strikers this summer. They will clearly need to reinvest, however, as Mason Burstow will be returning on loan to Chelsea and both Nazariy Rusyn and Eliezer Mayenda would arguably be better placed featuring from the wide areas if they remain part of the senior squad next season.

it seems likely that Sunderland will attempt to add a more established striker and as such give their younger or more inexperienced options more time to settle, given that Kristjaan Speakman confirmed at that meeting that the Black Cats had pursued a deal for two such players in the January window. The question is whether they'll able to get a deal over the line, as they evidently were unable to do last time around. Sunderland's budget should grow this summer as they start to target promotion, and as perhaps they recoup some funds from player sales - but they're unlikely to be one of the division's biggest spenders under the current ownership, at least not at this stage.

Interestingly, Mike Dodds did also say lately that he feels Jobe Bellingham will be a contender to at least to take on some of the striking burden. Dodds feels he has the attributes to be a success in the position and will be better for his experience this season, something which is being discussed in Sunderland's pre-summer planning at least.

How about outgoings - are there expected to be any significant sales this summer?

It's certainly a possibility. Jack Clarke is at this stage the player most likely to depart, as the club is at an impasse over a new deal. The winger loves life on Wearside but it seems highly unlikely that the Black Cats will be able to match the potential terms on offer were he to move to a top-tier club. While the Premier League market was somewhat becalmed in January as a result of many clubs facing Financial Fair Play concerns, it would be a major surprise if no one came in for Clarke and there may even be interest from Europe. Lazio made a fairly significant bid in January, an indicator that the Championship is an increasingly well-scouted destination for potential talent - the spectacular success of former Coventry City striker Viktor Gyokeres at Sporting Lisbon this season may well have something do with that.

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With Clarke entering the final two years of his deal, there is an acceptance behind the scenes that this window might be the point at which his value is at its peak, allowing for significant reinvestment into the squad if he does depart. While the ideal scenario for all would be a new long-term deal, that appears highly unlikely at this stage.

Beyond that, any departures should be limited. Though there is undeniably interest in a number of Sunderland's best young players, including the likes of Anthony Patterson, Trai Hume and Dan Neil, all are under long-term contracts. The Black Cats are not under any pressure to sell, particularly if Clarke departs, and would only be tempted to do so by a massive bid. That group of players will also know that like Clarke last summer, they are another good campaign away from being considered a potential starter in a top-tier team, rather than merely a squad player with potential.

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