After allowing the dust to settle on a remarkably eventful first season back in England’s Second Tier, Sunderland’s sporting director Kristjaan Speakman released an interview detailing his thoughts on the season and the next steps for Sunderland AFC as preparation for the 2023/24 season gets underway.
Released on the club Youtube Channel, Speakman summarised his thoughts on Sunderland’s progression, thanking the players, staff, and fans for their outstanding performance during the campaign as well as highlights the importance of continuing that upward trajectory moving into 23/24.
Throughout the interview, Kristjaan brings multiple discussion points to the fore. He confirms that substantial investment is being made to the facilities at the Academy of Light to keep Sunderland at the top end of academy development and recruitment, hints about future additions to the first team are mentioned, he sheds like on the decisions made about Sunderland’s loan players and most importantly, he discusses the current wage model and system in place at the club.
Following his arrival to the club in December 2020, Sunderland fans have been divided on their opinions on Speakman, with some fans doubtful of his work behind the scenes and some rather the opposite, plauding him for his recruitment model and shrewd business dealings in the transfer window. Let us not forget that up until Speakman’s arrival, Sunderland had really struggled to employ players on sustainable and economically viable contracts, with many players being sold or released at a huge loss and the club still paying instalments for transfer fees and managerial appointments many years into the future.
Yes, there have been some serious questions asked about the recruitment in January following Sunderland’s sudden disappearance of their 17-goal striking duo of Ellis Simms and Ross Stewart, but take nothing away from some of the excellent recruitment made over the last three years, raiding Premier League academies for talent, and adopting a ‘Football Manager-esque’ approach to football with a club like Sunderland. Not only did Speakman manage to do this in little over 4 transfer windows, but he also did this successfully and the club are certainly reaping the rewards for his work behind the scenes in making that dream a reality.
The truth is, whether you love or hate the approach Speakman takes with his ‘PR driven’ openness and agenda, there’s no denying he’s a master of the media, with the calmness and decisiveness that he discusses his plans and ambitions for the club moving forward. In the past, Speakman has given numerous interviews with media outlets and always appears to say the right things, portray the perfect outcome, and thought of every ideal solution.
Some fans may dislike the open and direct nature used as it blurs the mysterious line between fantasy and fiction that is so often attached to the inner workings of professional football, although it must be said that the clarity and clinical nature of Speakman’s comments must be admired to some extent.
In my own opinion, I think fans can only appreciate and applaud the transparency that Speakman offers, providing a refreshing reminder that the club is being handled in a proficient and sustainable way whilst still aiming to build year on year to the eventual aim of returning to the Premier League. It’s always re-assuring to hear that those in control of the football club share a clear and well-constructed plan for the organisation and that makes a huge change compared to previous employee’s, certainly over the last decade.
With Speakman at the helm, as fans we can expect to see an exciting brand of football with a flourishing young team continue onwards and upwards into the 2023/24 season and beyond.