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Roker Roundtable: Assessing Ross Stewart’s Sunderland future!

With the Scot’s contractual situation still unresolved and a big summer ahead, we asked our writers for their thoughts on how things might pan out and how they’d like the club to deal with it…

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gav says…

I don’t think people are going to like me for saying this, but I’m erring on the side of caution when it comes to Stewart.

Leaving aside just how fantastic he is for one minute, I think there’s a real possibility of him leaving and whilst I think the club will do everything they can to ensure he stays long term, there has to be a temptation to sell him if the right offer comes along.

He’s almost twenty seven, which puts him towards the older end of the group, and given what we paid for him, if the right offer comes along we’re bound to be tempted.

An eight-figure sum would be astronomical given where he came from, and the other thing we can’t ignore are the injuries that he sustained last season: two, both long term, and the one he’s currently recovering from was a bad one.

There’s no guarantee he’ll come back the same player, and I’m concerned that there’s the potential for a reoccurrence. His playing style means he’s constantly running his body into the ground, and I just wonder if he’s going to be able to play the same way after a really serious Achilles tear.

There’s one year left on his deal and really, despite his success here, he’s not the one holding all the cards.

I’m prepared for a summer of rumours circulating in the Scottish press as we’ve seen in the previous two windows, presumably leaked in an attempt to force Sunderland into ‘giving in’. Whatever happens - whether that’s a sale or a contract renewal - it has to be with the club’s best interests, and not Rosscoe’s, at the forefront.

For Sunderland to be successful, we can never again compromise our position by knee-jerking and giving into demands that we’ve no intention of fulfilling.

I’m crossing everything in the hope a deal is worked out that suits all parties, but I’m also prepared to accept that if he does leave, it’s for all the right reasons... from the club’s perspective at least.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I think the club needs to extend his contract by one or two years (ideally one year on top of what he has now, plus an additional one year option) and it would be worthwhile for all parties.

He did well during the games he played last season, but for him to recoup the biggest fee and get his best pay day at the top level, he needs to perform well in this division for most of a season without suffering anything other than a minor injury.

As it stands, he’s done great in League One, but he hasn’t really proved that he’s got the strength and fitness for Championship football to go with his goal output, which was great in the limited appearances he made.

If we extend his contract by another one or two years, he’ll be tied in until he’s twenty nine or thirty, and that’ll be more than enough time to either know that he’s right for us and for him to help us progress further, or to know that he’s good enough at this level to attract a fee for which we can and should let him move on, if it makes financial sense and we have suitable cover.

It also means he won’t do well in his one remaining season then leave on a free transfer, which we need to ensure doesn’t happen.

If he doesn’t quite make the grade when playing a full Championship campaign, or if his injury issues continue, we’ll still be reasonably unexposed with something like a ‘one plus one’ deal on top of what he currently has, and the club doesn’t lose out by ‘over backing’ him as he approaches thirty.

Personally, I think he can thrive in the Championship but his injury issues may well have a major impact on his ability and performance, as Gav says.

Whatever happens contractually, I can’t wait for him to hit this league hard for an extended spell in red and white.

Given his injuries of late, I can’t see anyone offering enough right now to tempt him or the club to move on it, so let’s get him tied in, but in a way that’s mutually reasonable.

Mark Wood says…

I think we have to assume that when Stewart shortly returns to training and regains full fitness, he’ll once again return to the standards that he set during our promotion season of 2021/2022.

However, when he does so, we can also be sure that the same transfer speculation will start again.

When he suffered his Achilles injury, I was relieved when it was confirmed that it wasn’t a full rupture, which can dampen the most promising of careers, irrespective of the fact that it temporarily put any transfer speculation to bed. More than anything, I was relieved for the player.

One year ago, that speculation was in full swing as he had one year left on his contract until the club activated a one year extension and in January before he was injured, we had the same speculation again.

Everyone remembers the Josh Maja saga and the whole ‘will he or won’t he sign’ shenanigans from September 2018 right up until the day he left the following January.

Not only did his agent lead the club and the fans a merry dance, but also the player too. It was an unwelcome distraction and the conclusion probably ended up costing us promotion from League One at the first attempt.

Older supporters will also remember the case of Allan Johnston, one of Sunderland’s best players in Peter Reid’s all-conquering promotion team, who was alleged to have been tapped up by Rangers after international duty with Scotland.

He also refused to sign a new contract in the final year of his deal, and he told Reid that he didn’t know what he wanted to do. I’m not saying the same thing has happened here, or that the club should adopt the same drastic measures that Reid did and put him in the reserves for a year, because that would help nobody.

We all love Ross Stewart.

He was the link that we’d been missing for all our time in League One until he came into the team: a strong centre forward who can hold the ball up, score goals and who has the pace to get behind an opposition defence.

He’d be harder to replace than sell, but we can’t have the same situation hanging over the club for the next year. The speculation can’t hijack our transfer efforts for the whole summer and next January.

How would I like to see club address it? Give it a month to resolve the contract.

He’s had a year to sign and if he hasn’t done so by the middle of June, assume that he never will do so, is looking to run it down and therefore sell him.

He’s a great player, but we proved last season that we can cope without him.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says…

This may prove to be unpopular but I’d say it’s time to pull the plug.

After last season’s endeavours, many players will be eager to play for one of England’s most exciting clubs, even outside of the top division, and it baffles me as to why Stewart, who’s played almost all of his career at far less exciting clubs, would delay so long on committing his future to Sunderland.

Whatever his prerogatives may be, what we saw last season was a full-blooded desire from all to not only play, but to remain at Sunderland in pursuit of the Premier League dream.

With a coaching setup extracting every drop of talent from a series of footballers, Stewart won’t have many better options available, and even less so after a season dominated by two major injuries.

It’s at this juncture where commitment or desire can legitimately be questioned, and Kristjaan Speakman and company must make an assessment as to whether now’s the time to cash in on a player for whom we paid a ridiculously low fee in comparison to his current worth.

As we’ll see in the coming seasons, every player will have their price and given that in the absence of Stewart, we finished as the league’s fourth top scorers, his importance (whether we like it or not) has diminished.

To move forward, the club needs a decision from him one way or another and I doubt whether those in charge will be willing to see him enter the final six months of his contract.

Of course, this may be a classic case of stopping play in order to strengthen his bargaining hand, but it could prove to be a dangerous game. Should this contract saga become any more protracted, the decision may be taken out of Stewart’s hands entirely.

Whatever the outcome, the recruitment team have warranted enough trust from the fans to find a suitable and quite possibly better replacement.

On This Day (9 June 2007): Midfielder turns down Sunderland return – and heads to Bolton instead


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