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Opinion: Vultures will circle around Sunderland’s prized assets in January; hopefully they stay!

Sunderland’s young team are doing very well, and it’s natural to assume that in a seller’s window there will be vultures circling around our best players. What sort of movement can we expect to see?

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

So, sixteen games into the season, we sit second in the table and three points behind league leaders Portsmouth with a game in hand. Our recent form reads as six games won on the bounce, four clean sheets in a row, and with Jack Ross and Adam Matthews up for the monthly manager and player of the month awards respectively.

Things couldn’t be much better right now, could they?

The club is in a vastly different place to where it was left by former Chairman Ellis Short. We actually seem to have a connection with this owner, the manager and most importantly the playing staff - we’ve even managed to rediscover our love for the much maligned Lee Barry Cattermole.

Six months ago, we’d have happily carted off any player in the squad to the nearest team that would take them, but now we’d loathe to lose any of the current bunch such is the success and togetherness of this new look Sunderland AFC.

Sadly, football - as we all know - just isn’t that simple in 2018, and before you know it your new idol has joined relegation threatened Aston Villa for twenty four million pounds (how’s that working out by the way Darren?).

So with the likes of Lynden Gooch, Josh Maja and Lee Cattermole performing supremely well since the season began, are we wrong to expect clubs higher up the league ladder to test our resolve and upset our apple cart? Probably not. The bids will likely come and Stewart Donald will most definitely have some decisions to make.

Costa Rica v Colombia
Although he’s probably our best full back, the healthy competition for places at left back mean Bryan Oviedo would be the sensible option to offload - if we need to balance the books.
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The aforementioned vultures have already started circling around our captain George Honeyman, if rumours are to be believed, and even though Josh Maja is apparently on the verge of a new five-year-deal, with the goal-scoring form he has shown there’s bound to be interest in our teenage striker from Championship, and perhaps even Premier League sides.

In a Utopian world, Stewart Donald can convince all of our youngsters to sign new contracts in the same way he has done with Bali Mumba.

Ideally, Gooch, Maja and Denver Hume sign up the long-term deals offered, and Jack Ross continues to build a team that buys into the long-term plan being implemented at the Stadium of Light. The reality, however, is likely to be different.

It is widely documented that Costa Rican left-back Bryan Oviedo and former captain Lee Cattermole are by far our highest earners, and, if necessary, they're likely to be among the ones sacrificed in order to balance a what is still very delicate budget.

Perhaps Oviedo, even if he is probably the best full-back at the club, would be the obvious choice for a departure with Reece James and Denver Hume competing for the number three shirt.

Lee Cattermole, on the other hand, has had something of a renaissance this term and most fans would be sad to see him depart. The truth is, we may need to lose both.

But what if there’s no interest in either?

How much stabilising is left to be done? January will tell.
Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Although our finances appear to be stabilising, interested clubs will know that the failure to offload big earners such as Oviedo in the summer will be hindering our continuous rebuild. Subsequently, we may have to listen to offers for the likes of Josh Maja, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch if no offers are forthcoming for players we could maybe live without.

It’s a prospect none of us - the owners included - are hoping for, but it’s a possibly that we may have to come to expect these bids.

How do the board, the team and ourselves react if we do receive bids for any of these vital components in the team? You’d hope we’ve got enough determination to reject any forthcoming bids, but what if the offer is too good and they leave?

If that is to be the case, it’s imperative we continue with the togetherness we have shown since Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven acquired the club.

For the first time in a long time, we have owners that genuinely care about the fans and the direction of the club; any transfer will be done in the best interests of Sunderland Association Football Club and it’s fan-base, not the interests of any agent or parasitical, ego inflated player - and we can take comfort in that.

This is a new dawn and as Charlie himself said “the p*** taking is over”.

The vultures may come, and they may shake our nest and manage to nab a few of our prized possessions from it, but what remains come the beginning of February will still be a squad of players that believe in this club.

This is a group of players with a new mindset under an exciting, young manager and a board ready to fight every challenge head on for us - the fans and the Sunderland community as a whole.

Nothing is going to stop us this year. We’re getting our club back.

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Jack Ross may have to lose some of his squad this January - but you have to trust the decisions made himself and Stewart Donald will be the right ones for this football club.
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images