The key Sunderland questions that are set to be answered in the coming weeks ahead of pre-season return

Sunderland’s first-team squad are set to begin pre-season training in the near future – but there remains a number of unanswered questions ahead of the return to the Academy of Light.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 4:45 pm

While Lee Johnson will soon begin work on the training field, there are several issues that remain unresolved.

So what questions will we likely see answered before pre-season kicks-off? We take a look:

SQUAD COMPOSITION

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The key Sunderland questions that are set to be answered in the coming weeks
The key Sunderland questions that are set to be answered in the coming weeks

Given this is going to be a transformative summer for Sunderland it was always unlikely that the full first-team squad would be assembled by the time pre-season began.

While that is always the ideal scenario, various factors mean that is not going to be the case for the vast majority of clubs this summer.

But could we see some form of a breakthrough in the market before pre-season training resumes?

Head coach Johnson would no doubt be keen to work with as many of his new recruits as quickly as possible – but Sunderland’s recruitment team are prepared to be patient in their pursuit of top targets.

And while the focus has largely been on incomings this summer, there could yet be further outgoings from the Academy of Light too.

There is, of course, the uncertainty over the futures of Aiden McGeady, Charlie Wyke, Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume. The club would no doubt like clarity on that quartet before pre-season begins.

Elsewhere, it has already been suggested that George Dobson could be released from his contract while plenty of eyes will be on Will Grigg too.

While those two deals may take longer to get done, their futures will no doubt be a hot topic before pre-season begins.

THE YOUNGSTERS

With Sunderland’s squad still being assembled, pre-season will also give a number of youngsters the ability to stake a claim.

But which of the club’s under-23 cohort will be handed the chance to impress in the first-team fold?

The likes of Anthony Patterson, Dan Neil, Josh Hawkes and Oliver Younger are all set to be involved in the early weeks of pre-season – but others could follow suit.

Kenton Richardson impressed towards the end of the 2020/21 Premier League 2 campaign and could slot in at full-back, a position where Sunderland currently lack any real depth.

Benji Kimpioka will also be hopeful of a chance after spending time on loan at Torquay United, while youngsters Ellis Taylor and Patrick Almond could also be given opportunities.

PRE-SEASON SCHEDULE

Sunderland have thus far confirmed just two pre-season friendlies - with trips to Spennymoor Town and York City pencilled in.

And we could see some further friendly fixtures announced ahead of the squad’s return to training.

Fans will no doubt be monitoring such games closely, in the hopes they will be able to attend fixtures as the League One season draws nearer.

INJURIES

While there will inevitably be a number of interesting narratives to pre-season, one particular strand worth watching is the anticipated return of Arbenit Xhemajli.

It was initially hoped that the Kosovan defender would be able to return to training during the early weeks of pre-season – and we will soon discover whether that is indeed the case.

After his first season on Wearside was curtailed through injury, he will be one to watch providing all goes to plan.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor:

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Sunderland AFC coverage 365 days a year.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor