When Ross Stewart joined Sunderland in January 2021, many thought that the ex-Ross County man was set to be an understudy for the in-form Charlie Wyke.
During the final stages of the 2020/2021 season, as the Black Cats were eventually sent crashing out of the playoffs at the hands of Lincoln, Stewart was Lee Johnson’s second-choice frontman behind the prolific former Bradford striker.
When the Scotsman netted his first goal in red and white at the Wham Stadium against Accrington Stanley back in March of that season, few would’ve anticipated the rapid rise that he’s enjoyed over the past two seasons.
With that in mind, and as the ‘Loch Ness Drogba’ gets nearer to the final stages of his contract, it leaves the club with a dilemma surrounding the future of our star man.
How do the club successfully keep hold of Stewart, and if he was to leave, how would they respond? On the other hand, if he was to stay, how could we fend off further interest from other clubs?
During the past couple of months, fans have been left slightly in the dark regarding Stewart’s situation, but the messages from Kristjaan Speakman have implied that the club is trying their best to retain his services.
In a recent meeting with supporters’ groups, the sporting director offered an update about how the land lies, but there’s no doubt that things are still up in the air.
The club wants to retain the player and the player wants to stay – and is naturally doing well at this time.
Ross needs to make the best decision for his livelihood. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to stay and this is the basis of a typical negotiation which can sometimes take up to eighteen months at a time.
Although this buys the club some time to get the issue resolved, there’s no guarantee that Stewart is either going to stay on Wearside or move away during the upcoming transfer window.
As Sunderland fans, this news was always going to leave us in a ‘glass half full’ mindset. The signs are positive, but there’ll still be nerves and hesitation until he finally puts pen to paper and signs a new deal.
Our new business model is based around blooding fresh young talent and eventually moving them on for bigger fees, and Stewart is a prime example.
The Scot has developed from the fresh-faced young man who joined the club at the start of 2021 to a striker that has the Championship, and perhaps English football, at his fingertips.
At some stage, the club will have to move him on, but what they don’t want is to be left in a logjam in the middle of the season, when Stewart could well be hitting his peak.
However, it seems unlikely that he’ll leave in January or even in the summer transfer window.
He has an additional year’s activation clause within his contract that the club can and probably will trigger, and at the recent meeting, Speakman closed the discussion about his future with the following quote:
This isn’t an unusual situation that anyone should be getting worried about, but I do appreciate the supporters are keen we tie Ross Stewart onto a longer-term contract. These feelings are replicated internally.
There’ll be some supporters who are worried that Stewart may depart the Stadium of Light, and indeed he might, but despite the criticism that’s been levelled at Speakman since his arrival, it seems as though he’s managing the situation rather well.
Personally, it feels as though Stewart is moving closer to doing what everyone hopes he will, and inking his signature on a new contract.