Phil West says...
Although it is not an appealing prospect in the slightest, there is no doubt that we are facing another summer of upheaval, regardless of whether promotion is achieved or not.
If we do escape L1 via the playoffs, there will be an immediate need to strengthen the squad for next season, and if we are condemned to a fifth season of third-tier football, there will be the inevitable cutting of cloth, and the potential cashing in on players who have high resale value.
Not an encouraging thought, but that is the reality, and if we are to stand a realistic chance of keeping the likes of Nathan Broadhead (a quality but fragile player), Patrick Roberts and Leon Dajaku, it is obviously imperative that we do end the playoff curse. Those players would all be important if we were to be playing Championship football again next season.
In terms of out-of-contract players, I think it is a mixed picture.
Personally, I would like to see the services of Bailey Wright retained, because he does add experience and nous to the defence, and would be worth keeping. Likewise, for Arbenit Xhemajli, who seems to be finally finding his feet on Wearside.
As for Jordan Willis, his future obviously depends on his physical condition. If he can return to peak fitness, there is no doubt that he could be an asset.
Aiden McGeady’s time at Sunderland will doubtless end this summer, promotion or not, and I have a feeling that Lynden Gooch may be playing for his future over the final weeks of the season. Benji Kimpioka is another player who may be on his way out, too. He has a talent, but perhaps it would be better for all parties if he moves on, and finds regular football elsewhere.
At the moment, trying to gauge who could be in line for a new contract or not, but that’s how I see it, albeit with changes possible during the final weeks of the season.
Andrew Smithson says...
I really like what I have seen of Nathan Broadhead this season and would be very happy if we brought him back on a longer-term deal. I know he has had injury problems and that we have been burned before when signing players with such question marks over their head, but for my mind he is good enough, and young enough, to make it a risk worth taking.
As for the out-of-contract players, there are so many factors at play here it is hard to know what will happen with some of them. Phil is right when he says it will be another summer of upheaval, and for that reason, I would like to see a couple of faces hanging around just so there is some continuity at the club.
Bailey Wright and Lynden Gooch have their critics but they both bring things to the team that we need, so they would be two that I would look to retain, although ideally, we need to get to a position where we only ever have to tweak the squad rather than overhaul each year.
Admittedly, that is hard when we don't know what division we will be in from one season to the next, but that has to be the long-term aim nonetheless.
Sean Brown says...
Nathan Broadhead has been a revelation since he started appearing for the lads.
Of course, there’s a concern about fitness as he returns from his second time on the sidelines this season, but he just has something that makes you want to ignore these possible issues - sort of the same way the club ignored the pitfalls of signing someone nearly twice the young Welshman’s age when looking for a lad to help in the lad's absence - only this decision hopefully will be made in the knowledge that he’s young, very hungry for success, and his natural talent and passion is plain to see.
When he’s on the pitch he’s everywhere you want him to be and in some places, you really don’t expect. The boy has a tremendous work rate and ethic, but most of all he appears to have the ruthless nature we all so adore in a forward. I for one hope beyond hope they can pin him down with us for a little longer with a look to finding a way to keep him fit for at least two-thirds of a season.
When it comes to some of the other names on the list, I’m somewhat torn between rewarding loyalty and facing the reality of the situation. Some players despite their many years here are very replaceable - we are at the mercy of the recruitment team in these decisions as much as the head coach - but finding adequate replacements for players like Bailey ‘Terry Butcher with a Kangaroo’ Wright and the Californian Mackem legend that is Lynden Gooch, would be absolutely f*cking impossible. Who would suggest such a thing? Whoever they are, they will be ridiculed for it when the pair lift the Play-Off Trophy at Wembley (probably against Wycombe - I definitely think Embo will get the first goal and the Loch Ness Drogba will likely score the second) and no I don’t do lottery numbers.
Regarding young Benji, who I’ve willed to succeed for so long I’m almost unwilling to give up on out of pure stubbornness more than anything else, I think it’s probably best for both parties to go their separate ways, as he needs an environment he can thrive in and I don’t think he has one here.
I don’t think he’s had a great time of it since the departures of Maja and Asoro who he counted as close friends - lads who helped him beyond just football - I think he’s too far from his family and often cuts an isolated figure on and off the pitch and hopefully, a move can work wonders for him.
Players like Hoffmann and Dajaku I’ve been encouraged as much as I’ve been discouraged by their hot and cold flashes this season. There’s definitely raw talent in both and at times you can see their pedigree, but I don’t have any particularly strong opinions on keeping or not keeping either currently.
They are either quite brilliant or quite terrible, there seems to be absolutely no middle ground. However, those two lads with bags of talent in need of a place to rehabilitate and settle - the ridiculously talented duo of Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts - I wouldn’t hesitate to try and keep for as long as possible.
They are quite clearly a cut above many of the rest of our squad (and most of the division) and could prove to be truly exceptional for us, especially if the system fits.
As for our Geads... Well, It’s been a great laugh and I love his ink. Keep the red flag flying high Aiden lad. Here’s to a long and happy life doing whatever you like, because you’re of course absolutely loaded. Enjoy it.