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Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg

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Editorial: We’ll have to get used other clubs eyeing up our players. Take it as a positive!

We might not want other clubs chasing our players, but it shows that we’re heading in the right direction and that we’ve got some really exciting talent within the squad

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

I don’t think any of us would want Sunderland to sell Jack Clarke. I certainly wouldn’t, because he was a revelation last season.

Not only does he score and create goals, but he’s durable, too.

In a season that’ll be remembered for a catalogue of injuries that completely disrupted our team, Clarke was one of the few outfield players to be a virtual ever present. Fifty games in all competitions is testament to not only his fitness and the quality of his play, but also his mindset.

This is a player who, before arriving at the Stadium of Light eighteen months ago, had only started ten professional games, and developing at the rate he has done and not needing to come out of the team at any point deserves recognition and praise.

It’s testament to the club as well, and the perfect example of what Sunderland is now set up to do for young players whose careers have gone off track a little. If Kristjaan Speakman was putting a brochure to sell the club as the perfect place to truly get young players’ careers motoring, Clarke would be the poster boy.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mike Morese/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

He had a ‘name’ before arriving at the club, thanks to the £10m Spurs spent on him when he was just eighteen, and when you combine that with his stunningly good goals and assists ratios this season, it’s no surprise that clubs are being linked with him.

It appears from his agent’s comments last week that Clarke doesn’t want a move, and you can understand why.

He lost two or three seasons of his career by being swallowed up by a Premier League club and perhaps not developing as quickly as they’d have liked, but at Sunderland, he’s found somewhere he ‘belongs’. He’s a northern lad, too, so being closer to home is probably a good thing for him.

It seems as if the only way he’ll leave is if the club decides to sell him – and we’ve been notoriously bad at selling players at the right time. In fact, I can barely think of when we have.

Jordan Henderson, maybe? Simon Mignolet? Possibly, but other than that, the past three decades have been characterised by keeping hold of players when we probably should’ve sold.

Of course, hindsight’s wonderful and I’m sure most of us were delighted when the club turned down £16m from Spurs for Kenwyne Jones and refused to entertain Lamine Kone joining Everton for £15m, and we all know how what happened there.

Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League
On second thoughts Lamine...
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Selling players at the right time is a skill. It’s one we’ve not had at the club before, and Clarke’s not the only one who’s attracting interest this summer.

While those envious glances in Ross Stewart’s direction may now have shifted their gaze due to the big man’s injury concerns, Patrick Roberts, Dan Neil, Dan Ballard and Anthony Patterson will all be on the radars of Premier League clubs this summer.

That’s a huge, huge positive and it’s a sign that we’re progressing and heading in the right direction. After all, it’s only two years ago that we were offloading the likes of Josh Scowen, Charlie Wyke, Max Power, Chris Maguire, Lee Burge and Aiden O’Brien.

Two years. Twenty four months, and now we’ve got Premier League clubs casting envious eyes at the majority of our squad.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The turnaround that Speakman and Dreyfus have overseen so far is nothing short of miraculous. Yes, it can be frustrating when transfer speculation happens, but it’s happening for a reason: because we’ve got players that other teams want.

The reality is that we’ll sell someone who we’d rather keep at the club, and probably sooner rather than later.

Whether you agree with the ‘model’ or not (and given what’s been achieved with it so far, I can’t fathom why anyone would disagree with it yet), it is what it is – buy young players, invest in them, develop them and sell them on for a big profit, but only at the right time.

Unless you’re being bankrolled to a ridiculous degree, and you’re Manchester City or Real Madrid, that’s the reality of football today.

Let’s face it, if we weren’t prepared to move players on at the right time for them and us, we’d be less attractive to join in the first place. ‘Come and sign for us, we’ll make you a better player, but we’ll NEVER sell you’ isn’t a sales pitch many would leap at.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Play Off - Semi Final - Second Leg - Kenilworth Road
Patto’s another who’ll be attracting Premier League attention
Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

I genuinely hope we keep hold of Jack Clarke this summer.

In fact, it’s a strange position to be in as a Sunderland supporter, that I actually don’t want us to sell anyone this pre-season, but if the club gets a ‘silly money’ offer, something around the £20 million mark, you could understand why they’d accept it.

He’s allegedly got a large sell-on clause that’ll see Tottenham take a chunk of any transfer fee, so you suspect it’d have to be in that sort of ballpark for the club to even entertain it, and strangely, that clause could very well work in our favour.

Regardless of whether Clarke goes this summer or not, the truly interesting bit when we do sell someone for big money will be what we’d do with it, because on the rare occasions when we’ve raked in a good profit for a player, we’ve rarely spent it well.

However, this is a different Sunderland, one that’s been transformed over the past two seasons, and when the club decides to sell one of our ‘star’ players, I’ll be doing my very best to retain perspective.

It’s not about individuals. It’s about the collective and the club, and so far, it’s heading in the right direction.

Ultimately, that’s all that matters. Anything else is a mere distraction.


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