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FAO the Sunderland powerbrokers: Please make me happy and give Ross Stewart a new deal!

The big Scot is easily one of the most exciting, dynamic and potent goalscorers we’ve seen in recent years. Extending his contract is an absolutely vital move for our immediate future, writes Phil West

Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

As we all know the modern-day football transfer market is volatile, unpredictable, and just a little bit crazy.

With TV and sponsorship revenues skyrocketing the purse strings are looser then ever, agents and hangers-on are more influential, and the deals themselves are increasingly complex. Meanwhile, Sky Sports News chronicles the dramatic goings-on with barely-disguised glee, their reporters practically salivating over the latest hot rumours.

Years ago, it was only Premier League clubs and their continental rivals between whom the mega-money transfers took place, but nowadays, Championship clubs are flexing their muscles with increasing regularity, as they seek to build teams that can challenge for promotion to the promised land of the top flight.

All of this leads me to Sunderland and the future of a player whose value is only going in one direction.

As we continue to settle back into life in the Championship Ross Stewart is, quite simply, the heartbeat of our team.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Yes, we have many players in our ranks who can influence games to an enormous degree, from the totemic Corry Evans, to the brilliant Alex Pritchard and the ever-improving Anthony Patterson, but Stewart is the focal point - the player for whom defences need to be on their guard at all times.

Even if the team as a whole is off form and not quite clicking, as we were during the first half at Stoke, the big Scot simply never turns in poor performances, and his all-round impact cannot be overstated.

On Saturday afternoon he only needed a single opportunity and he took it superbly, giving us a crucial lead just before half time having weathered some major pressure from the home side.

It was a classic finish: strength, a show of pace, and the composure to bury the chance.

From his goal output to his ability to put opposing defences under relentless pressure, to his ever-improving aerial game, the man signed from Ross County in January 2021 has taken to his role as our main striker with aplomb and has established himself as a beloved figure in the eyes of the fans. He is also physically durable, which is crucial.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

His contributions so far this season - three goals and two assists in five league games - are eye-catching, and with the addition of Ellis Simms to shoulder some of the burden there is clearly so much more to come. Factor in the improving form of a player such as Jack Clarke, and Stewart finds himself in a dream position.

He knows the service will arrive, and that makes his job much easier.

To be a great Sunderland striker you need to combine prowess in front of goal with the self-confidence and mental strength to embrace the challenge of leading the red and white front line and he has done that ever since his arrival, even if he took some time to get himself fully up to speed on Wearside.

When Charlie Wyke departed last year after a stellar final season Stewart found himself thrust firmly into the spotlight as part of a new-look team, and he has not looked back since.

What would Stewart’s value be in the current market? His worth to us cannot be overstated, and even at this early stage of the season, he looks every inch a Championship-class centre forward.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Final - Wembley Stadium Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

He has delivered in the big games against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe, and has also established the kind of rapport with the fans that, after so many years of watching disinterested, mercenary players, is genuinely uplifting.

If we are targeting a successful 2022/2023 campaign, it is imperative that Stewart’s contractual situation is resolved without delay.

There has been absolutely no suggestion that things are not progressing behind the scenes, but confirmation of a new contract would give everyone another huge boost.

To my mind, everything is in place for Stewart to become a truly great modern-day Sunderland player.

Slowly but surely, he is edging his way into that small bracket of iconic strikers to have graced the Stadium of Light since 1997, and under the impressive stewardship of Alex Neil, it feels as though we are only just tapping into the immense potential of the ‘Loch Ness Drogba’.


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