Whatever division we are playing in next season, developing an effective and efficient player recruitment strategy must be top of Sunderland's lengthy to-do list this summer.
Clubs outside of the top six live and die by the quality of their close season player recruitment, and it is an area which we have continued to fail miserably in over the last number of seasons. It is why teams such as Swansea and Southampton continue to prosper in the league, despite losing a number of their higher profile players in recent years.
It's also no coincidence these sides continue to adopt the same playing style year in and year out, having brought in replacements who truly satisfy the teams actual NEEDS. For every Wilfried Bony there's a Lillian Laslandes, and it's both infuriating and baffling how we continue to end up at the ‘shafted' end of this spectrum.
From Steve Bruce signing players such as the ‘Egyptian Beckham' (Ahmed Elmohamady) to Roberto De Fanti's lengthy list of budget foreign no hopers, Sunderland have found different ways to waste both time and money over recent close seasons. It seems we tend to either pay over the odds for British based players who are either injury prone or inconsistent (Fletcher, Rodwell), or take punts on foreign based players who are quite frankly just not up to it (too many to mention).
If we're to continue with the Director of football model (which has failed spectacularly in the last two years), Lee Congerton has to deliver this summer.
The club is in dire need of a boost, and this squad needs quality additions if we're to ever progress from the eternal battle against relegation. This season West Ham and Southampton are proof that four/five close season additions who come in and hit the ground running can turn a predicted season of struggle on its head.
A club in our position can ill afford to continue failing in this process, and it's really about time someone at the club addressed the glaring needs of this squad. A creative presence in midfield, pace in wide areas, and a dynamic centre half or two would be good places to start.
The struggles of recent seasons has also seen a distinct lack of saleable assets on the playing staff, placing greater strain on Ellis Short's personal finances.
Given where we sit in the premier league hierarchy, we have to be more economical in our recruitment process and youth set up. Ellis Short is unlikely to invest heavily in the squad this summer, so it's vital we bring in players better equipped to deal with the rigours of the Premier League - who can then potentially be sold on if the big boys come calling.
The same can be said for graduates of the academy, although this is likely to be on a smaller scale given how many lads have made that transition into the first team over recent years.
The challenge then long- term becomes how efficiently can that money be re-invested into the playing staff. This is the harsh reality for Premier League clubs outside of the top four or five who just can't afford to be wasteful in the transfer market given their financial backing.
It is an unenviable task Lee Congerton faces - give us short term success on the pitch, whilst over-seeing that ‘long term vision' the club is desperately in need of in order to avoid the annual stare into the Premier League abyss.
Improving our recruitment strategy this summer, is a necessity in order for our club to move forward and achieve both short and long term success. Lee Congerton's time at Sunderland is likely to be defined by this very summer, as failure in the market again would surely see this side plunge to new depths.