Gus Poyet has cut a frustrated figure of late. In fact, he's gone beyond frustration. It's like Sunderland have finally got under his skin and deep into his system. Not in a good way either. Typically, the despair has set in. Not just with the here and now either - which let's face it is bad enough - but with what lies ahead.
Poyet has lamented the fact he can't plan for the future, stuck as he is with a squad ripe for yet another overhaul. He doesn't want to rebuild, but he has little choice to be part of a process that will see up to and possibly even more than 20 players exit the club this summer. Whilst we'll not be sad to see the majority of them go, that's an astonishing rebuilding job to face, particularly when it's likely to be in the second tier.
So, who will Gus be without after the summer? Given his comments on those whose contracts are due to run out at the end of the season, none of those will be sticking around. Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley have turned down offers, while the rest are likely to be discarded without a second thought. There'll be no comical left back performances from Andrea Dossena, no more wild pointing and gesticulating by Seb Larsson, no more dithering in possession from Craig Gardner, no more fifty pence headers from Carlos Cuellar, no more plodding from David Vaughan - who is surprisingly still ours - and no more rarely utilised backup goalkeepers in Oscar Ustari ,and the seeming forever injured Keiren Westwood.
This is just the start of a probable mass exodus from Wearside. Next to factor in are the loan players, who may sign for us permanently, but more realistically will think better of it. There'll certainly be no Fabio Borini or Ki Sung-Yeung, both of whom are far too good and too expensive for a club about to be relegated to the Championship. Then there's Ondrej Celustka, who has barely featured and frankly hasn't been much use when he has; I'm rather hoping we choose not to take up an option to buy on him.
There is potential for the Spanish speaking duo of Marcos Alonso and Santiago Vergini to hang around. Both could stay - though Alonso may feel he can do better than a second tier English club - while Vergini appears to be a favourite of Poyet's and may earn a contract based on that. His transfer - or lack of it - could be an early test of the Congerton/Poyet relationship. It'll be interesting to see what happens, but as neither player belongs to us, they can be considered as likely to depart. So far, without a single player leaving for money, the number of players either likely to leave or needing to be signed at a price comes to 15.
Next up, the players that the club will actively seek to get rid of and the first names that spring to mind are those who have already been sent out on loan. Cabral and Modibo Diakite will be sold to anyone showing an interest and more disappointingly, Alfred N'Diaye probably won't have a future here either. Who knows what's happened to Alf, but since finding his feet at the back end of last season, he's been effectively rejected by the club. He wasn't perfect, but offered something different to the one paced, lacking in presence figures who've lingered around the club for some time now.
Diakite and Cabral were only signed last summer, as was Valentin Roberge, another who Gus Poyet hinted he would happily see go. He's only played when absolutely necessary and despite a drop in division, will probably be sold if a buyer can be found. In fact, if someone wants him, he'll probably be sent packing for free.
From the rest of last summer's dismal transfer business, it's hard to see futures for Jozy Altidore or Emanuele Giaccherini. Of the two, Giaccherini should be easiest to move on, despite a disappointing spell at the Stadium of Light. Plenty of clubs in his native Italy will fancy bringing him home and we may even make our money back on him in the process. Altidore will have fewer options, but previous prolific spells on the continent could see him retain some interest from abroad. I wouldn't expect us to receive much of a return on the £6m wasted on him on the summer though.
That's 21 players I've mentioned thus far and probably about £8-10m to be made from sales at most; what then of those players who may want to leave Sunderland? They're what you might call our most sellable assets. There aren't many left. Steven Fletcher has previous for forcing a move from a relegated club and I doubt we should expect anything different this time. When he left Wolves, he forced his move to Wearside. His head had gone apparently. He'll probably find his exit from the Stadium of Light a smoother one. We aren't a club who make much of a fist of retaining our assets, if he can be considered one and a cut price move to a promoted side beckons.
Then there's Adam Johnson. The wages alone - even with a relegation pay cut - make the chances of him staying on Wearside this summer slim at best. With an entire new squad required and so little money to be made from those making their exits from Sunderland this summer, his sale looks inevitable. The chance to bring in some funds to spend on new players is unlikely to be passed up. The only meagre crumb of hope that Johnson could be retained is based on his roots in the local area. For a player of his potential - we've seen what he can do on his day - it probably won't be enough.
Another local lad - Teesside is close enough - Lee Cattermole has never played outside of the top flight and has captained three sides in the Premier League in his short career to date. Though he's often maligned, a player of his pedigree would boss the Championship. Unfortunately for us, the chances are he'll be plying his trade at English football's top table next season. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Stoke City revive their interest and take great pleasure in snatching him off us at a reduced price.
That's 24 players now and yet the list doesn't end here; Vito Mannone has shown himself to be a more than able goalkeeper this season. Of all the signings made last summer, he's the one we'd all love to stay, but with a short term contract meaning he's going into his last year once the season ends, perhaps the club will cash in while they still can.
Similarly, Connor Wickham enters the final year of his contract this summer. There's a very good chance he's on a wage befitting a first team regular rather than an intermittently used youngster whose reputation outweighs his ability. Another contract looks unlikely at this stage. Do we cash in? Or do we let a player signed for a huge £8m walk away for nothing at the end of next season? His future is up in the air.
That's 26 players who are either set to leave, find themselves surplus to requirements, have questionable futures or who will actively look to move for the sake of their own careers. 26 players and that's without even considering the likes of Nacho Scocco and Danny Graham or the ageing central defensive pair of John O'Shea and Wes Brown, all of whom could end up moving on for various reasons.
What lies ahead isn't a rebuild job, it's a salvage mission. Potentially, we could be left with a spine of Mannone, Brown, O'Shea, Bridcutt, Graham, Wickham and Scocco. Doesn't exactly inspire, does it? Throw in a couple of youngsters - Mavrias and Ba, perhaps Watmore - and that still doesn't offer anything near a starting XI let alone a squad.
Putting together a first team to compete in the Championship won't come cheap but building a brand new squad on top of it is an unenviable task. Take away the Premier League income, factor in the lack of sellable assets and it starts to look impossible. No wonder Gus looks and sounds sick. Like us, he's probably seen the mess of the last several transfer windows. Like us, he might just be wondering why this one will be any different.