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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light

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Ambition versus pragmatism - which is best for Sunderland?

Some fans want to be promoted ASAP, others are seemingly happier to play the long game and build steadily. Where do you stand?

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Andy Thompson says...

I don’t think our signings have been unambitious.

Just because we aren’t spending lots on individuals, it doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t being ambitious. After all, we spent £10m on Jack Rodwell and look how that turned out!

I’d argue that playing the long game will be far more beneficial than looking for short term solutions, and I also feel that the recruitment is operating well in an inflated market that has shown little value.

They’re doing their best to make sure this club is sustainable and not spending ridiculous amounts on mediocre players. If anything, they’re prioritising setting solid foundations for a squad that’ll operate for years to come in the top end of the Championship and potentially be competitive in the Premier League as well.

I feel we’ll be there or thereabouts this season, and to be honest, we’ve been really unlucky over the past two games, with nothing to show for it.

Our recruitment is working on two fronts.

We’re investing in youth, where players’ value and performance levels will rise over time, and we’ve also worked hard to keep our assets at the club. Getting Chris Rigg and the academy lads onto new contracts as well as securing the services of Dennis Cirkin, Dan Ballard and Trai Hume means other clubs will have to pay big if they want them.

I think our overall aim is to get promotion at some point but the foundations of the squad need to be right first, because there’s little point in going up and not being able to compete.

At this point, our squad is still in its infancy and over time, the players will develop.

We do need some elder statesmen with higher quality and over the next few windows I’d like to see the likes of Corry Evans, Danny Batth, Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien replaced with players who’d be able to operate competently at a high-end Championship or low-end Premier League club.

I did feel that being promoted last year would’ve been too soon for us and in my opinion, there is a right and wrong time to get promoted.

If the foundations of the squad aren’t there, getting promoted and playing in the Premier League would end in disaster- both in the short and long term.

Taking our time to develop our squad, ethos and identity could mean that in years to come, we’re a competitive Premier League club that’s capable of attracting the best up-and-coming talents from across the world as well as continuing to utilise and develop our youth products through the academy.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jon Guy says…

Last season exceeded everyone’s expectations, and I’m sure that included Kyril Louis-Dreyfus.

Without our horrendous injury record, we would’ve been in the fight for automatic promotion, but I always thought this season would be a different matter.

I don’t think we would turn down promotion if we achieved it, but we do have to remember that we’re twelve months on from playing in League One.

The club has made it clear that the model needs to be sustainable, and we continue to pursue a system where we invest in young, exciting players.

If we’re honest, we need to consolidate in the Championship to allow some of the youngsters to grow into British football. We need to be in a position to ensure that when we’re promoted, it’ll be a case of making a few quality additions and not a wholesale rebuild.

If we go up, we need to be capable of competing for a mid-table finish, not repeating the days of the dim and distant past where we twice ended up with the lowest points total in Premier League history.

We’re coming out of a very dark period for the club, and we need to trust in the process. We’re playing good football and hopefully the strikers and the goals will come.

If so, and we’re in the promotion mix come May, we’ll all be cheering, but we’re in a position where consolidation is the real target this season.

Tom Albrighton says…

‘Ambition’ is a funny thing when it comes to Sunderland, and it usually revolves around the assumption that the club never shows enough.

The current bugbear of many fans has been transfer activity- or lack thereof, despite the fact that we’ve brought in a series of players, almost all of which have commanded some kind of fee. In terms of transfers, we’re sticking to a strategy that has worked and served us well.

When ambition is thrown into the mix, the buzzword of the day always seems to be laced with negativity, and in this instance, I think that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Just a season on from leaving League One, we’ve spent our fair share, arguably punched above our weight and solidified that by tying down some of our best and most prodigious talent to long-term contracts.

Spending millions doesn’t sound unambitious to me, but in terms of promotion, that’s a different kettle of fish.

After last season’s heroics, the bar seems to be set higher than it may have been should our 2022/2023 season have tailed off rather than finishing on something of a high.

Upon our arrival in the Championship, if you’d offered the fans the opportunity to have finished in the top ten for two seasons running, many would’ve snapped your hand off.

It seems a sensible target and one that will allow us to consolidate our status in this division, hopefully providing a springboard for even bigger things to come.

So far, under the stewardship of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, the club has shown time and again that they’re strategic, realistic and competent, and it’s about time they’re given some respect in this regard.

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

Malc Dugdale says…

Personally, I think our transfer business is already showing signs of us aiming for promotion.

The difference between what some people hope and maybe expect is that we aren’t necessarily building a team to go for it right now.

That costs a lot of money and throwing cash at this league clearly isn’t part of the model we’re following, which is something I wholeheartedly support. However, we’re certainly building this team for the not too distant future.

If we’re promoted sooner than planned, we’ll take it, just as we would’ve accepted promotion a few months ago.

Personally, I think the club is looking to go up in two or three seasons’ time.

I’m not saying we’d stay up at the first time of asking if it happened earlier, and I’m not saying the end of this or next season is perfect timing, but other than our odd swap with Swindon all those years ago, teams that go up tend to grab it with both hands and do their best come what may, and these owners would certainly do that too.

The situation for me is that we’ve rebuilt from rock bottom and are now investing in the types of players who’ll likely give us a blend of promotion hopes and healthy profit in the future.

It may be the case that this allows us to achieve promotion come next May, or it may be two or three years after that. Nobody really knows, but we have a strategy that’ll increase the odds of our club being sustainable and of gaining promotion, which is the right thing to do.

What I’m confident of is that we’re heading in the right direction and by using this approach, our owner, sporting director, supporting staff and team have given us one hell of a promotion dress rehearsal in the very first season at this level, after four seasons at a very low ebb.

These guys have shown me they know what they’re doing, so if their plan is to spend a certain amount this season, aim for a particular place in the league and build from there, I’m fine with that.

I’m a fan, not a football recruitment expert, but the people running our club have given me reason to believe in them, so that’s what I’m choosing to do.

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