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Roker Roundtable: Assessing the state of play at Sunderland as pre-season begins

With the players beginning their preparations for the new season this week, we asked our writers for their thoughts on how things are progressing and how happy they are with the squad

Photo by Owen Humphreys - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says…

It’s a very interesting question and I’ve veered between ‘Yes, we’re ahead of the game’, and ‘No, I’d like to see one or two more options to start the season’.

This time last year, we probably all would’ve settled for a mid-table finish, but because we finished in the playoffs, expectation has been raised and don’t get me wrong, I’m OK with it.

At the risk of repeating what other writers have already said, I’d like to see Ross Stewart tied down for the coming campaign.

His injury has tilted the pendulum in the club’s direction, and he needs to get fit and prove that he isn’t injury prone, so I’d be very happy for him to do that with us.

Our wage ceiling will mean that other Championship clubs could probably double his salary, so the risk is there that somebody like Stoke could prise him away. However, he’s ambitious and can probably imagine a good season with us works for him too, so I expect him to sign the contract offered.

I’m very happy with Trai Hume and Dennis Cirkin signing new contracts, to go with the new deals previously signed by Anthony Patterson and Dan Neil.

The incomings offer potential and I’m delighted that most of this has gone under the radar. We’re getting our business done before any of our competitors can try and hijack any potential deals.

I expect that our resolve to keep Jack Clarke will be tested, and the old adage of ‘every player has his price’ could see him depart, but Isaac Lihadji is waiting in the wings.

Maybe we’re ahead of the game as we step into pre season training, and I hope the team spirit that was so obvious last season is maintained and strengthened.

With Bailey Wright possibly on his way and Corry Evans still returning to fitness, the dressing room has a young feel to it, and Danny Batth, Luke O’Nien, Ross Stewart, Evans and Patrick Roberts have important roles to play in this regard.

Going into the season with Tony Mowbray at the helm is as good as a new signing for me.

There’s little doubt that the club have spoken to other coaches and although they should plan ahead, Mowbray deserves another crack at this.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I think we’re in a great position and if anything, we’re better off than most previous years.

The bulk of fans I speak to can’t recall the last time we had four good signings wrapped up before the end of June.

In addition to the incomings, we have the likes of Isaac Lihadji and Abdoullah Ba, who featured less often last season than some may have hoped, but will now be more settled and can really hit the ground at pace this summer.

If I was to have one complaint, it’s probably the fact that Ross Stewart’s contractual situation isn’t sorted, but I’m sure that’s not far away, and he still has a full year to go so will be in training soon as he can.

The club may be observing the progress of his Achilles injury along with sorting his new deal, but I’m hopeful that he’s very close to being back out on the paddock and even closer to signing a contract extension.

My only other thought is that I’d like to see more options in goal, as I get a feeling that Anthony Patterson needs more cover and rumours are swirling that we may loan out Alex Bass. I trust the club to sort this in plenty of time, though.

The club has made great strides forward and we aren’t even into July, so hopefully pre-season training can help build our confidence and team spirit more and more.

That was like an extra man at times last season, so let’s hope for more of the same this time.


Matthew Crichton says…

When it comes to supporting Sunderland, not many things surprise you. We tend to see the best and worst of everything and we’re no strangers to scandal and controversy.

One thing that has surprised me, however, is having four transfer deals confirmed and two new contracts signed before July.

We’ve become so used to leaving things late, opting for panic loans and panic buys, and starting the season with Carl Winchester and Dan Neil as full backs that being organised feels almost unnatural at Sunderland.

Yet here we are, addressing a lack of height in the squad, finding what’ll hopefully be a long-term Ross Stewart replacement and signing a sought-after young English talent.

While there’s still work to be done with keeping hold of our best players and the challenging task of replacing Amad, I’d argue that we’re ahead of where I would’ve expected us to be in June.

Tying down the likes of Trai Hume and Dennis Cirkin proves that excellent form will be rewarded, but it was also great to see a clear statement that whilst we may sell at desirable prices, we want to keep our best players until we receive an offer we can’t refuse.

Signing four young talents, three of which most of us had never heard of, further displays just how far we’ve come to get our scouting to excel in identifying young talents at better prices, particularly from overseas.

As per usual, the players we’ve brought in are complete enigmas and how they’ll perform is a ‘time will tell’ case, but I’ve developed enough trust in our new recruitment team to feel relaxed about it and I can honestly say that I absolutely love not knowing just how good our new players can be!

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