In: An experienced third choice!
Out: Robbin Ruiter
Potentially leaving: Max Stryjek
Jon McLaughlin is perhaps Sunderland’s best player, and with one year left on his current deal it’ll be interesting to see how the club handle his situation. If it’s me I’m giving him a raise and an extra year on his deal, but we’ve heard before that McLaughlin has the ambition to play at a higher level and clubs in the Championship won’t have missed just how brilliant the former Hearts goalie has been for us since arriving. Despite this, he’s settled in well here and is a vitally important member of the side - hopefully he’ll still be around next season and can see the ambition that the club has.
Dutch stopper Robbin Ruiter is done. Stewart Donald confirmed during his appearance on the Roker Rapport Podcast earlier this week that the Dutchman will leave, and it seems likely he’ll return back to his homeland to sign for a team in either the Eredivisie or, more likely, the league below.
That means that Max Stryjek is the natural choice to become our number two, although that’s likely dependent on him signing a new deal. He spoke earlier in the month to the Sunderland Echo and expressed his desire to sign a new contract and compete for the #1 shirt, but whether there’s even a deal on the table remains to be seen just yet. If he leaves, it’s likely that Sunderland will be in the market for two goalkeepers.
Boro have released a pair of experienced stoppers in Dimitrios Konstantopoulos and Andy Lonergan, and I have to wonder whether they’re on our list of options since signing an experienced backup player who already lives local makes a lot of sense.
In: One left back, one right back - both quick & athletic!
Out: Adam Matthews
Potentially leaving: Bryan Oviedo, Reece James, Donald Love
This is one area where I think we can expect to see a fair bit of movement.
Denver Hume signed a new deal recently, presumably on the assumption he’ll be strongly competing for a first team spot next season.
Reece James has the option to extend but, according to Stewart Donald this week on the Roker Rapport Podcast, the former Manchester United man has yet to exercise that option and as such his future remains unclear.
Bryan Oviedo, despite being one of our better players, is not indispensable and is one of a few in the squad that we can see realistically being sold for a decent amount of money whilst freeing up a tonne space on the wage bill, so it’s fair to suggest that he may well have played his last game for the club.
Three left backs is too many though, and if James opts not to stay (a strange one as I don’t think he’ll be first choice or fit enough to play regularly next season) then it’s probable we’ll only be after one left back to provide competition for the youngster Hume.
On the right hand side we have a slightly less obvious conundrum.
Donald Love has barely been seen this season, having had to contend with a combination of frustrating injuries and just not being fancied by the manager. The issue, though, is that he’s still got a year left on his deal and you have to wonder who would be prepared to take him off our hands having failed to impress since he arrived at Sunderland.
Adam Matthews is out of contract and it seems unlikely that he’ll stay. He’s injured too often and on wages he was given when we were a Premier League club, with Sunderland unlikely to offer him a deal that would see him pick up a similar wedge. I’m fairly convinced that he’ll leave and find no issues getting himself a contract with a team in the league above, which in my view is probably the best move for both the player and the club.
And, despite what people may think, in the eyes of the Sunderland manager Luke O’Nien is our first choice right back. He’s barely played anywhere else and they wouldn’t have invested so much time in developing him in that position if they didn’t think he had the ability to not only play there now but for the next several years. Ross was reluctant to play O’Nien in midfield earlier in the season and I see no way that he changes his opinion, even next year.
Again, three men in one position is too much and it’s likely that we’ll only see one right back signed this summer - let’s just hope they’re looking at someone who is athletic and quick, and can provide us with some real variety in a position that can be useful for your attacking play should you recruit the right type of player.
In: Two big, powerful, athletic central defenders!
Out: Jimmy Dunne (loan)
Potentially leaving: Glenn Loovens, Jack Baldwin, Tom Flanagan
When Jimmy Dunne signed on loan in January we had four other players in his position in the squad, though the fact Glenn Loovens hasn’t been seen for ages now certainly indicates that he wasn’t considered for selection by Jack Ross and that Dunne’s spot in the team was to provide competition for the other trio of central defenders.
With Dunne gone that leaves Jack Ross with some room to maneuvre.
There were rumours recently that Glenn Loovens was set to call it a day, and with his 36th birthday coming up in September it’s unlikely that he’ll play much if at all in the final year of his deal. Similarly, Alim Ozturk has one year left but is still a good age and towards the end of the season established him as our best defender, so it’s likely there’s still a future for the Dutchman at Sunderland as we attempt to tackle League One again next season.
If we have any chance of selling Jack Baldwin then we ought to take it, because it’s evident he’s just not cut out for playing at a club like Sunderland. Despite being a very talented player, Baldwin has often struggled when playing at the Stadium of Light before being removed from the squad entirely for a number of weeks, pointing to the fact he just doesn’t have the mentality to thrive at at a club like ours.
Like Baldwin, Tom Flanagan has failed to impress me in the majority of games this season and if I’m honest I feel like we can do much better than the Northern Ireland international, who doesn’t really fit the mould of the powerful, brutish central defenders that this club has lacked all season in games where teams have tried to draw us into a fight. That said, he can play anywhere across the defence and is able backup so I don’t expect he’ll be going anywhere - though newspapers did recently link him with a move to Swansea, which indicates that he might be the subject of interest from other clubs.
Thus, it seems likely we’ll go all out to sign at least two players in this position, and for me I feel it’s imperative we bring in athletic, powerful defenders. Look at all the other top sides in the division from the 2018/19 season - they all had at least two big lads at the back and more often than not we’ve struggled when going up against them.
If we’re going to gain an advantage next season over the other sides gunning for promotion then we cannot afford to fail to recruit players with the right attributes - it seems so simple but evidently it’s not been as obvious as that to Sunderland’s recruitment team over the last twelve months.
Sunderland were linked last summer with Oxford United captain Curtis Nelson, and when thinking of the kind of defenders I think we need he’s certainly someone that fits the mould.
Check back tomorrow as we run through Sunderland’s midfield and attack!