I think we can all agree that Sunderland and Ross Stewart coming to a suitable arrangement on a contract extension is what is best for all parties concerned.
He’s our best player, and whilst we aren’t always going to hang on to our best players, at the age he’s at now it’s fair to say that Ross Stewart is nearing the peak of his powers.
He’s finally reached the Championship and has backed up all the hype by scoring goals at this level with ease, proving to those who may have been on the fence that he’s perhaps even better than the second tier.
His contract situation appears to be a delicate one, but in an attempt to find some sense in amongst all the nonsense I think it would be beneficial to strip things back a bit.
Where do things stand?
What we do know as fact is that Ross Stewart’s current Sunderland contract has about eighteen months left on it. There are six months with an option of a further year, a clause that the club can and will activate in order to tie him down even longer.
So, for the next eighteen months at least he is a Sunderland player.
There have been so many reports in the press already around this subject that it can be hard to keep track of where things are actually at, but I’m having a hard time taking all of it at face value.
Given that we know the club operate more quietly these days than they have for some time, I think it’s probably fair to assume that they aren’t leaking stories about the terms of Ross Stewart’s contract offer to the press.
Alan Nixon of The Sun has run various stories on Stewart’s situation, and it’s known that his contacts in the game are mainly and usually the agents and representatives of footballers.
Similarly, Keith Downie of Sky Sports News has communicated various updates in recent weeks, and he has many contacts in the game - again, usually agents.
The timing of the leaks and the people that the stories are being leaked to are both curious and obvious - clearly, it’s benefitting the player and the people that represent him to cause a fuss in public in order to stir up pressure amongst supporters who really don’t want to see their favourite player leave the club. It’s an age-old tactic and it works.
So whilst things may appear chaotic, I wonder whether in reality that’s actually the case.
The player has been nothing but exemplary in his conduct since he return from injury. He’s played with intensity, drive and focus, and has scored important goals. He doesn’t look affected at all by the speculation, and nor should he - he’s a Sunderland player until something changes.
Who holds all the cards?
I know some people say that football contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on these days, but given that Ross Stewart is a Sunderland player for the next eighteen months at least, the pressure - for the time being - is completely off Sunderland AFC.
Whilst the constant speculation could cause mayhem on the pitch and behind the scenes, it clearly isn’t - there hasn’t been a noticeable difference in his demeanor or play.
As I said before, the timing of the speculation seems fairly obvious to me - if you’re locked in negotiations over a new deal for the player you’re representing, the most opportune time to try and create interest in him is during a transfer window.
Crank up the pressure, maybe get some teams interested in him that are prepared to pay a lot of money to sign him, and it might just tip the club towards giving them what they want.
But really, that’s all they’ve got. Unless Ross Stewart sticks a transfer request in, nothing really changes - and whilst I don’t know Ross personally at all, I don’t think he’s the type of character who would take bad advice like that in order to force a move away or force the club’s hand. He’s ultra-professional and at the end of the day, he signed a contract that he was happy with once upon a time.
From Sunderland’s perspective, it makes no sense at all to even entertain offers from interested clubs or to give in to the demands of the player’s agent right now during a transfer window. If his deal was up in the summer then things might be different, but right now he’s ours for the foreseeable.
You could argue that at some stage Sunderland have to sell players on that they develop once the big offers come along and they’re at a premium, but I think that Ross Stewart will be worth a hell of a lot more in the summer once we see how the rest of the season plays out.
Sunderland do not need to sell him - to me, it’s as simple as that.
What is the most likely scenario?
Unfortunately, dear readers, I don’t think this is going away any time soon.
What I do believe is that Ross Stewart will not leave this January.
I mean... how could he? We have no other strikers for a start.
As I’ve outlined, I don’t think it benefits Sunderland to necessarily tie him down right now if the terms of the agreement aren’t in line with the club’s current wage structure.
I could be wrong, but I think we’re probably at an impasse, and that a resolution is more likely to be reached in the summer when we know where everything stands.
Naturally, Ross Stewart wants to play top flight football at some point and wants to be paid what he’s worth. Nobody can begrudge him that given how brilliant he’s been for us.
But, wouldn’t it make most sense to wait where the club is in the summer before we talk pounds and pennies? If the club and the player continue to grow at the current rate, he’ll be paid a hell of a lot more than is being offered right now.
My best guess is that speculation surrounding the nature of the deal and the potential of a move away will continue over the next three weeks whilst the window remains open, and the best thing for everyone to do is remain calm. There is no logical reason why Sunderland would even think about selling him, and that should be that.
And if I’m wrong, feel free to rub it in my face.