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Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final

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Sunderland’s Ross Stewart is hot property - but we have to back ourselves to develop him further

In the absence of any real news, tabloid rumours linking Ross Stewart with a move to Rangers have been playing on the minds of Sunderland supporters - we simply have to ignore it, and back ourselves to develop him further.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The link that has been made between Ross Stewart and Rangers seems, on paper, to be a fairly lazy one on face value, doesn’t it?

On one hand you’ve got this young, durable, in-form, fit and firing Scottish centre forward who seemingly has it all, and still has so much room to improve. He’s just had his first call up to the National team squad, which has catapulted him into the minds of the Scottish people and onto the pages of the Scottish national newspapers.

On the other hand are Rangers, a side in need of some fresh attacking impetus if they’re going to regain their Scottish Premiership title from Celtic next season, who are in desperate need for a centre forward having stuttered towards the end of the previous campaign due to their regular number nine, Alfredo Morelos, missing out through injury.

Nobody - publicly at least - knows what Stewart’s value is, but given what an in-form twenty-something League One striker has gone for in the past, it’s probably not unfair to suggest that he might be within their grasp.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

For as great as we all know Ross Stewart is, the fact is that he’s unproven in the Championship, and next season there will be a huge expectation from all of us to see what he can truly do at a higher level, pitting himself against a better calibre of defenders.

The thing that Sunderland hold over pretty much every side outside of the Premier League is that we are the biggest club, and providing we show ambition with our recruitment this summer, there’s no reason why we can’t attract some very good players in this transfer window.

Likewise, holding onto some of our bigger names should be fairly easy.

Rangers - and Celtic, for that matter - are the spanner in that particular works, though. They’re both bigger clubs and they’re both going for league titles and playing in Europe - and for young Scottish players like Ross Stewart who all likely grew up dreaming of playing for one of the Old Firm, that’s a big attraction.

Still, I don’t feel overly worried about losing Ross this summer - not if the club have any ambition, anyhow.

Rangers FC v Dundee United FC - cinch Premiership Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

It’s possibly a different story if a Premier League club surprises us and puts down some big money in a bid to tempt him away from us, but I can’t see it happening.

Ross Stewart’s our player, for another year at least, and now we have to reward him handsomely with a contract that not only ties him down to the club for the next several years, but offers us protection in the event he has a storming start to the season and some big offers come our way in January.

He’s done enough to become one of our top earners.

He’s done enough to be shown some appreciation by the club in the form of a handsome new contract that rewards him for his fine season last time out in a red and white shirt.

Right now, for as long as he’s on a smaller deal with just a year left to run, we are vulnerable. And that lack of reassurance from the club gives Stewart an excuse to have his head turned if a big club like Rangers come sniffing around him - and we really don’t want that to happen.

I personally believe that Ross Stewart can become a Premier League footballer - he’s got absolutely everything. He’s got his best years ahead of him, he’s fit, he’s athletic and he has lots of attributes that make him a prime candidate for a top flight centre forward. He’s tall, he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s got good feet, he can dribble, he can run in behind, he can hold it up - and importantly, as he showed us last season, he can score goals.

We’ve stumbled upon a top talent and I think we have to back ourselves - we have to back ourselves to develop him further and build the side around him, now in a higher league, ready to launch an assault on the top half of the Championship table.

Forget all about the Rangers chatter - he’s a Sunderland player for the time being at least, and once he’s enjoyed his summer off following the end of his time playing for Scotland, we have to get him back to the Academy of Light and sat around a table with a contract plonked in front of him that he can’t help but sign.


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