Gus Poyet has made it clear to Connor Wickham that we aren't going to be messed around when it comes to his future - either he signs a new contract or we shift him on.
It's a stance that many will welcome - Poyet has to be clear to the player that we aren't in a position to let this drag on - and should Wickham decide his future lies elsewhere he won't be short of potential suitors.
Poyet told The Journal:
"For me, Connor’s situation is clear. He needs to sign a new contract or we let him go – we sell him. There is nothing in between. He is an asset to the football club and we paid a lot of money for him.
Last year he was a key part of us staying up and he was very important (to us). But he needs to realise that the club needs to look after the interests of the football club as well. I suppose that, one or the other, we are going to have an agreement.
Which one of those (sign a new contract or move on) is going to happen, I don’t know – it is not my job, that is (sporting director) Lee Congerton’s department."
Alfred N'Diaye fans worldwide were dealt a massive blow this morning when it emerged that, despite being involved for much of pre-season, it seems that he's still not a part of the first team plans at the club and we'll be trying to move him on. Rumours of another Real Betis bid are rife and, sadly, it looks as though Alfie could be leaving Wearside sooner rather than later.
The inclusion of the Senegal international in the squad which traveled to Portugal should not be taken for granted in Poyet's eyes, suggesting that his inclusion, along with a number of other players that featured heavily in the opening three games that were played on these shores, was for nothing more than to make up the numbers.
Gus told the Chronicle:
"I need to make decisions. Modibo Diakite is not here, Cabral is not here, Danny Graham is not here, David Moberg-Karlsson is not here. Youngsters David Ferguson and Duncan Watmore, who have trained with us in pre-season, are not here either.
I need to start setting up my first-team squad and I need to train certain things which are very important for me, and if they are not going to be a part of things it is better not to bring them. It is hard. It is not nice, because they are part of the club and part of the culture. However, I get paid to make decisions and which players to leave behind is one of those decisions too. If you think about the central midfielders I can play at the moment – Jordi Gomez, Seb Larsson, maybe Emanuele Giaccherini – aside from Alfred there is nobody else. The only other thing I could do is to change the system and play Liam Bridcutt and Lee Cattermole, but I don’t want to do that."
One of those players, Frenchman Modibo Diakite, is proving difficult to shift. It was fairly well noted that we tried to included the player as part of the deal to bring Marcos Alonso back to the club but it seems that Fiorentina have interest in other players, with Chris Young reporting this morning that the Italian club have instead focused their interests on Argentinian Jose Basanta.
Diakite clearly has no future as a Sunderland player and I suspect that, with two years left on his current deal, he may yet leave on a loan at the back end of the window. Just my opinion, of course.
Elsewhere, skipper John O'Shea told the Shields Gazette that things are shaping up nicely in this pre-season. Entering into his fourth season as a Sunderland player, O'Shea says he is feeling fit and hopes that this coming term will be a more enjoyable one that the last. Hear hear.
The Republic of Ireland international said:
"The important thing is to feel you’re contributing. I’m looking forward to another season in the Premier League which we can hopefully enjoy a bit more. Everyone is looking forward to the start to the season. We want to keep that momentum going from the end of last season - but we know that’s not going to be easy. That’s why we’re over here working very hard. We’re here for fitness work, but also to improve on team shape, team morale."
O'Shea also invited fans not to dwell on Wednesday's defeat to Portuguese side CD Nacional too much, insisting that the most important thing was that the players had a good work out.
"The important thing is the minutes. A few of the lads had knocks beforehand, but we managed to get Billy (Jones) through 45 which was very good. Obviously we had to make a few changes in the second half – Catts (Lee Cattermole) picked up a little knock, but nothing too serious. But the main thing was that plenty of us got 90 minutes. It was a bit disappointing because we had plenty of chances in the match before we got done with the classic sucker punch at the end. We should have been a couple of goals ahead in the first half after we played really well. Most importantly though is the fitness and the team shape – there’s different things we’re working on."
With Patrick van Aanholt and Billy Jones bolstering our defensive ranks since joining this summer, O'Shea believes the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.
"It is nice to have natural full-backs in place, especially when you’re doing work on team shape and things. Obviously, we like our full-backs to get forward. Billy could have got on the scoresheet the other day. That’s something we can work on in training now because it’s important to have that strong team shape."
Despite his relatively positive manner, the captain echoed the words of Gus Poyet, whose frustration at the lack of transfer activity since pre-season began was made pretty clear following the win against Spanish side Recreativo on Tuesday night.
"We’ll need a bit more help there, not just in defence. The manager has pointed that out, just to get the competition which is needed to bring strong games in training, and keep lads on their toes.
Sometimes these things take time. Everyone is working hard to try to get it done as quickly as possible. But it obviously helps if we can get everyone settled in, and work with them. It moves the ship along a bit steadier."