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Roker Roundup: Kristjaan Speakman on how Sunderland will approach the summer transfer window

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Sunderland AFC’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman has discussed how the club will approach the summer transfer window, hinting that a data-led approach will be adapted, scouring all of Europe.

New Sunderland Manager Press Conference Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Speakman on summer transfer window

Sunderland sporting director Kristjaan Speakman took part in a webinar this week with the Football Transfer Forum, where he discussed a wide range of subjects surrounding his time at the club so far.

During the talk, Speakman spoke about how his move to Sunderland from Birmingham City came about and revealed that despite the move being initiated by Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and his new regime, Stewart Donald became extremely keen to fill that position even if the takeover had not been completed:

The football club was obviously in the embryonic stage of going through a takeover and I think there was a lot of conversations that went on between our new owner and the previous owners, that are now obviously still involved at boardroom/shareholder level, around what they wanted the club to look like.

They embarked on a search to try and find a sporting director position for the club.

I suppose, technically, under the new era but I think the more they got into it and the more discussions that occurred amongst those key stakeholders, Stewart Donald was really, really keen to get that position in-situ, almost regardless of whether the takeover went through.

They ran the process through a recruitment agency and I was contacted by a recruitment agency on whether I’d be interested in entertaining the job and taking some conversations.

I’m sure the recruitment agency had conversations with some other people in the game, there are a lot of skilled people out there that could do this type of job, so I think I was really, really fortunate in that process to come out on top.

I think it’s an unique role that they are after here, which probably aligned it closely with my CV and experiences, maybe another club might have gone a slightly different direction and I might have been a little bit further from the ideal candidate.

Speakman also discussed the upcoming transfer window and the difficulty it will pose for the club due not knowing which division the team will be in and the lack of recruitment personnel at the club:

First of all, we’re in a really difficult position for two reasons.

One is, we don’t have any recruitment staff, so there’s your first one. Second one is, we don’t know which league we’re going to be in. So you’ve got that balance.

At the minute we’ve built out a structure and a framework as to what League One looks like and what the Championship looks like, we’re just going through a process of building a recruitment team behind the scenes.

You’ve probably seen that we’ve got some analysis and and some data jobs out there that we’re recruiting for at the minute to underpin that but I don’t want to disappoint all of our agent friends that are on the call today but whilst we’ve got an owner who is obviously financially viable, we won’t be going down a win-at-all-costs, spend-at-all-costs strategy, it just won’t be that.

If you look at our January transfer window, our net committed costs went up very, very fractionally in terms of the type of business we did, so it’ll all be part of the plan and it’s not going to be a project where it’ll be highly resourced on players, it’s going to be about building behind the scenes elements.

He then went into more detail of what we can expect from the summer window and said the club will be scouring the world looking for the right players for the team, how we’ll be competitive in the Championship but, should we fail to get promoted, how we should be at the front of the queue for all players in League One:

We won’t focus on the UK, we’ll use a data and evidence led approach to make sure we canvas all areas of the globe to try and find the best talent for Sunderland. That’s where we’ll be at.

I think in League One, with all due respect to the rest of the teams, if we have a meeting with a player and his representative about coming to Sunderland versus any other club, I’d like to think we’re in the box seat. I think that states the benefit that we have.

On the flip side of that, as a Championship club, our whole revenue to cost matrix completely shifts because hopefully we’ll have 40,000 people in the stadium, which again is something that not a lot of other Championship clubs have.

So all of a sudden our break even line moves quite considerably in the Championship and we can therefore have a salary structure for the first team that should be very, very competitive.

So I think we’re quite fortunate in terms of which avenues we go down, the issue we have is the timeline between knowing where you’re going to be and also our squad has a high number of players out of contract in the summer, therefore there are a lot more decisions to make.

Kristjaan Speakman was speaking with Football Transfer Forum’s monthly webinars aimed at those who play a role in football transfers in any capacity and for those who are actively engaged in the recruitment side of football.


Krusnell discusses Sunderland spell

Swedish youth international Oscar Krusnell spent time at the Academy of Light earlier in his career, joining the club during the same summer as Joel Asoro but left before getting into first team contention.

Speaking to Expressen about his career so far and his experiences in Sunderland’s academy, Krusnell, who now plays for Brommapojkarna, revealed how the move came about and how it helped to have someone of the same nationality with him:

I went to Sunderland several times. I played a few matches and went and was at a tournament in South Africa but even before that tournament they had made it clear that they were interested in getting me there. I had probably decided from the start that it was too big an opportunity to turn it down. Of course it was tough to move but I had decided even before that I wanted to take that step.

I was 16, that was after ninth grade. I lived with a host family in England. And then I had a friend come with me, Joel. It was the two of us who were Swedes and it was nice that you had someone with you.

What caught the young left-back by surprise however, was the club’s rule to keep academy players grounded. With the 22-year-old explaining that he found the strict rules that were enforced ‘a bit tough’ but was lucky to find Kthat the first team player’s boots he had to clean belonged to his compatriot Seb Larsson:

The attitude over there was a lot that you shouldn’t think you’re anything. I had played in the youth national team and had done some training match with AIK’s first team. I thought I’d go to England and play in the Premier League, like. There was more “who the hell do you think you are?”. Not just to me, but to everyone.

It was a bit tough for me. Not that I’m some kind of diva, but there were a lot of rules I wasn’t used to. A lot of extra stuff that you had to do outside of football. Clean the dressing room, clean the gym every day. There were rules that you could only wear black football shoes when you played, rules that I thought were really boring and didn’t understand. I was 16 and thought ‘why don’t I wear any football shoes I want’.

It’s a thing in a lot of English youth teams. You get a player in the first team whose shoes you have to wash after every training session. It may sound worse than it is, but you rinse them off grass. It probably takes 30 seconds to do so it’s not really hard but it was more mental to get there and think “why am I doing this?”. Then maybe I was lucky that I got Sebastian [Larsson] who was Swedish and we could talk and become a bit of a buddy.

Yes, it would be done every day. It wasn’t that Seb decided it, it was our coaches who checked every day that it was done. If you hadn’t done that, you’d be fined.

Krusnell would eventually join Hammarby, inspired to move by some of his fellow Swedish youth internationals featuring in first teams back home in Sweden:

I really had no plans to return home to Sweden when I did. I was set on driving that year with the U23 team the season that came, even though there might be some left-backs in front of me.

I had seen Alexander Isak play a-team football and also Sead [Haksabanovic] who I had played with. Then I felt that “I want to do that too”, even though it was cool to be in England it was youth football. That’s why I chose to move home.

Sunderland v Newcastle United: FA Youth Cup Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images