Q: Stewart Donald has confirmed that Reece James and Dylan McGeouch have taken up the option to extend their contracts by a year. Where do you see them fitting in the side next season, and what do you think might have convinced them to stay as opposed to moving on elsewhere?
Craig Davies says...
This summer represents perhaps one of the most crucial transfer windows in our very recent history. We cannot expect an endless amount of seasons in League One and therefore we must now meticulously and strategically execute a squad building plan that does not acquiesce to guess work or allow for many mistakes in what has to be a promotion winning season (by hook or by crook).
With our ownership situation not quite set in stone, it’s with little surprise that the club have retained a couple of decent squad players that provide a symbolic comfort blanket for fans panicking over a lack of active business.
Both McGeouch and James have shown a consistent ability to perform with persistent quality in League One. Both are dependable and rational choices and will settle Ross’s nerves while the ownership scenario continues to unfold.
For me personally, James is still behind Denver Hume in the pecking order but will prove to be an able deputy should he be called upon.
While he can defend with reasonable aplomb, his attacking menace is negligible and has a tendency to slow play down. But he’s honest, hard-working and makes the most of his limitations. Retaining McGeough will be a positive for both Ross and the support.
Largely popular on the terraces, Dylan has garnered a reputation for ball retention, sharp passing ability and calmness under pressure. I may be in the minority here - and this is no criticism of McGeouch, only a matter of opinion - but he doesn’t personally excite me.
I admire him and recognise his qualities, but he couldn’t force his way past two old timers a little past their bests last term and for me, even though he stays and rightly so, I can’t see him being the rock upon which the rest of the team is built.
However, he’s slick in possession, knows how to find a pass and is a dependable 6/7 out of 10 performer when he plays. So whether he fires my imagination or not, his re-signing should be seen as a massive positive moving forward.
Tom Atkinson says...
Whilst I’m pleased that McGeouch has signed a new deal, James might find himself competing for a starting spot - especially if Denver Hume has a good summer.
On a slightly negative note, the decision for James to remain could well suggest that the club are playing it somewhat safe in terms of their recruitment policy - at least until new ownership is installed.
James is a safe option, but really offers the side very little going forward. He is too one-dimensional when I’m possession and often hinders the fluidity of our play.
The retention of McGeouch, though, is a real positive, in my opinion. The Scottish midfielder is perhaps the only player who effectively demonstrated the ability to recycle play and dictate the tempo of the game last season. His effective pressing and impressive range of passing enables players to move into space at pace - something we failed to do as the season wore on.
Players trusted the fact that he would spot a difficult pass and allow them the opportunity to work an opening. The midfield should be developed around him as a key player.
Ultimately, Sunderland still need a decent amount of fresh blood. At least one goalkeeper, several defenders with height and physicality, athletic midfielders and pacey forwards will likely all be on Jack Ross’ shopping list.
This summer is a critical one in terms of recruitment, hopefully this signals real intent - especially considering the other big sides in this league are flexing their transfer muscles already.
Morgan Lowrie says...
Reece James is a good piece of business. It’s low risk as Jack Ross knows exactly what he will get from him. Oviedo is likely to leave, meaning he’ll battle with Hume for a starting spot, or Hume can leave on loan if a replacement is signed for Oviedo, or if he doesn’t leave at all, with James a competent replacement.
The biggest news is McGeouch.
When given a run of games the Scotsman has shown his ability, and if teamed with a new arrival who has physicality and power he’ll be able to express himself more often and have more of an impact on a game.
When teamed with Cattermole and Power, Dylan was sometimes tasked with being the further forward of the two, which isn’t his game and reflected him as a poorer player than he is.
Having a player who is able to pick the ball up deep from the defence that will allow the wide midfielders and full backs to push further up the field will allow Sunderland to build into areas of the pitch a lot faster than they did last season, that often led to the team lacking creativity and struggling to break down defences that had time to reorganise and get back into shape.
With a fit McGeouch and a few athletic, direct additions, Ross can implement completely his style of play and the team will look a lot more balanced and dangerous. I’m expecting a significant second year from the former Hibs midfielder.