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Sunday Snoop: 'Truth' about relegation clauses & the reason Moyes played no youngsters in the Cup

In Roker Report's inaugural Sunday Snoop, in which we unearth the latest grapevine gossip from our shadowy sources - the 'real' reason David Moyes played no fringe players or youngsters in the FA Cup yesterday; and the 'truth' is revealed about the nature of Sunderland's relegation clauses in the wake of the Jermain Defoe to West Ham saga.

Sunderland v Burnley - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Why Moyes Played No Fringe Players & Made No Substitutions of Note in Cup Tie

Yesterday's FA Cup bore draw with Burnley was as near as it gets to the turnstiles at the Stadium of Light being converted to banknote printing presses to offer those who had handed over a tenner to watch it a refund on their way back out.

Sunderland v Burnley - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Jeff Hendrick battles with Papy Djilobodji during yesterday's FA Cup bore draw
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

The manner of the stalemate is one thing, but the dearth of fringe players and youngsters given a chance to impress is quite another. Most fans remain desperate to have their team included in the fourth-round draw even in these days of a devalued FA Cup. But David Moyes apparent desperate, nay pig-headed, approach to insisting those on the pitch were senior personnel to give his team their 'best' chance of progression still looks stark - even this morning.

The Sunderland starting line-up was as near to a Premier League eleven as he could get it - barring those missing through injury and African Cup of Nations duties. But, was that really wise? Would a week's break not have benefited some of those who played 90 minutes yesterday? The answer is surely yes.

That is unless the boss simply rates none of the youngsters - barring the obvious - who have tried to emerge blinking into the light from Sunderland's academy during his tenure.

The average age of Moyes' seven substitutes against Burnley was just 22 years of age. Take the ageing John O'Shea out and it was under 20. But only the eldest on the bench got a run out. The Irish veteran of over 450 senior appearances got a chance to stretch his legs for the final ten minutes or so. None of the others did.

O'Shea is no game-changer but Moyes performed his party piece, bringing on an additional defender to see out the game. What he was seeing out is questionable - defending the prize of a third-round replay presumably. But it was a strange substitution to perform on its lonesome given the nature of the match.

Sunderland v Burnley - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - Stadium of Light
Sam Vokes up against John O'Shea who was brought on to shore up Sunderland during the last few minutes of yesterday's goalless FA Cup tie
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Moyes has used players under the age of 23 extensively this season of course - Denayer, Ndong and Januzaj have been supplemented by Love and Manquillo where necessary.

And, the five youngest faces on the bench in the cup - Robson, Asoro, Maja, Honeyman and Embleton - have managed a reasonable average of four substitute appearances apiece this season in the Premier League. Their combined total minutes on the pitch, though, is a measly nine. That sub-ten minute showing was managed by Joel Asoro early doors against Middlesbrough.

And that's it for the academy products. Moyes preference in his under-23 options has been purely those he has brought in since he arrived in July. Barring Jordan Pickford, no emerging academy graduate has had a look-in.

The reason? The Snoop understands that Moyes doesn't rate any of them, not one. Not even hot prospect Asoro. In fact, if clubs come in for any - which is increasingly likely in the January window - the Sunderland boss is more than happy for all of them to leave, probably barring the youngest (Asoro and Maja) - for now - but their time is ticking too.

Sunderland 'Defoe-Style' Relegation Clauses - The 'Truth'

The subject of what Sunderland have been putting in their tea player's contracts during recent recruitment drives has reared its head again, particularly due to the fevered speculation surrounding Jermain Defoe's future.

Sunderland v Burnley - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Jermain Defoe in action during the FA Cup tie between Sunderland and Burnley
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It is now widely accepted that Sunderland's eleven-goal striker can leave the Stadium of Light for free should the club be relegated in May. A risky strategy perhaps - but also with some merit.

The logic in the case of Defoe would follow that as the highest paid player at the club - picking up some £90,000 per week - a swift severance may be of interest to both parties should the drop catch up with us. The club would instantly end a hefty financial outlay of over a third-of-a-million quid a month in wages to its biggest earner. It was also likely inserted as a sweetener to keep him at the club and sign his extension to 2019.

That £90k would be cash hemorrhaging out to a player that Sunderland's deal-makers appear to have believed would have a limited sell-on value as he approaches his 35th and then 36th birthdays during the contract. A little short-sighted perhaps given the mooted £15m current price-tag on Jermain Defoe this window.

So there was some concern earlier this week when further suggestion was unearthed that similar clauses might exist in the deals of other current players, including the sought-after Jeremain Lens for one - a player Sunderland will be looking to cash-in as soon as possible either during this window or in the summer. A prospect which would be thwarted if such a relegation clause was triggered upon the drop occurring.

And The Snoop has learned that this has indeed been a Sunderland 'thing' and the get-out certainly does exist within Defoe's deal. He will leave for free should his goals - this time - prove insufficient to stave off relegation and the grim reaper of the drop finally catches up with us.

In fact, such clauses have been used widely during Ellis Short's tenure to entice potentially reluctant signings to join a team which traditionally spends 90% of its season in the bottom three - 'come to us and if you're worried about plying your trade in the second-tier next season, we'll let you leave on a free if we're relegated'.

It's a desperate sales-pitch in many ways, but understandable given our state. Sunderland's current owner, who was once described in court as willing to "appoint the devil" to ensure his club stays in the Premier League, took such persuasive action with targets to ensure he gave his managers the best chance in their annual battle to stay up and attract some players to help them.

But, The Snoop further understands that such clauses have been phased out during the last few transfer windows and that recent purchases and re-negotiations have avoided the 'flog for free' get-outs. As time has progressed and extensions and restructurings have taken place, the only significant exposure to risk from such contracts lies in that relating to Defoe.

Good news for a club which has been busy in recent months negotiating fresh deals for Lamine Kone, Patrick van Aanholt and Jordan Pickford to name but three.