The average age of the current Sunderland squad is a concern. Our best players are really cracking on, and there are too few quality young players in our first team squad. If Sunderland want to move on and plan for long-term sustainability, we MUST look to rectify this issue this summer. Having a young squad will not only allow us to grow without the need for constant investment, but will also replenish our coffers through sales.
In our recent history, it’s difficult to remember too many players being bought and sold on for a profit. This is one of the many problems that got us in the mess we currently find ourselves. Every summer we tried for quick fixes, bringing in players without potential for growth, and thus without a decent sell-on value. This meant that as team we rarely improved, and frequently made poor returns on our investments, which among other things helped cripple us financially.
And what’s worse is that we don’t seem to have learned from that. Last summer we had a real opportunity to change that, but instead we added to our ranks more average players on the wrong side of 25. Whilst they are very decent League One players, that’s all they will ever be. As such, few clubs will realistically be able to stump up the funding to take them off our hands, whilst leaving us with a profit.
We are therefore left with a squad with very few players brimming with potential. Our best players, and probably the only ones who could be regarded as top League One players, such as the likes of Aiden McGeady and Jon McLaughlin, are over 30. For a keeper that’s less of a problem but for McGeady, at 33, the only potential he has is to lose a yard of pace.
The favoured midfield duo of Leadbitter and Cattermole are also the wrong side of 30, and look to be on their last legs. And the fact that we couldn’t drop our calamitous centre-backs for a decent, upcoming youngster highlights the fact that we just don’t have good enough youngsters in the first team.
For the long-term wellbeing of Sunderland it is imperative that we invest in young players for the first team - and that must start now. The spine of the team is vital, and we need to bring in some players who can either grow into Championship level starters, or who can be sold on for a good profit.
We must start our recruitment drive soon or we risk missing out.
Lawrence Shankland, 23, has been linked recently but there’s talk of other clubs entering the race. George Edmundson; a highly-rated, 6ft 3in, 21 year-old, centre-back, fits our bill perfectly. But it seems he could be off to Peterborough for around £600k. Chuks Aneke looks like a real talent - but he seems to be off to Portsmouth.
These sorts of young players with potential are exactly the sort of players we need, but our League One rivals seem to be pursuing them more actively than ourselves. If we don’t make our moves soon we’ll end up with the best of the rest as usual.
Of course we are waiting for off-field matters to be resolved, but we cannot let another summer be disrupted by these factors as they have in the past. Perhaps our new owners, and our potential new Director of Football John Park have their own targets. But it is concerning seeing players with good potential, available at very decent fees - such as those mentioned above - potentially being snapped up our rivals.
With that said, let’s hope the wheels are in motion behind the scenes, and we are just going about our business away from the spotlight of the press. Although we seem to say it every summer in recent years, this summer is one of the most important in our recent history.