Friday morning started with a fairly open and frank admission by Tony Mowbray, in particular, the strong indication that Alex Pritchard won’t be a Sunderland player come September.
It’s news that’s inevitably split our fans almost down the middle.
The big argument has been that we haven’t utilised the experience which we have on hand, and any criticism that we don’t have enough ‘older heads’ feels odd when two of our most senior players, Pritchard being one of them, started on the bench in our opening two league games.
Pritchard potentially leaving is something that has felt inevitable since midway through pre-season.
In most of his friendly appearances, something didn’t look right and the signing of Bradley Dack, which was engineered by Mowbray, was a further sign that Pritch’s time at Sunderland could be coming to an end.
Earlier in the summer, Mowbray outlined his options for attacking midfield, and Pritchard wasn’t one of the three mentioned.
Dack, Jobe Bellingham, and even Chris Rigg are set to be ahead of him in that particular position, and what’s clearly been said and done behind the scenes has seemingly brought his departure ever closer.
The news that Pritchard would be one of three senior players not to be offered a new contract is another example of why his time on Wearside is almost certainly at an end.
If a club came in and offered him a deal of two or more years, he’d be a fool not to accept, and what’s also important to remember is that in Dack, we essentially signed Pritchard’s replacement before he even left.
It seems a shame that there’s no place for him in the squad, but there isn’t any room for sentimentality in this game.
Pritchard averaged a goal or assist every four games last season, and if the club thinks that we can improve on that by promoting or recruiting youth, or by drafting in another player with a wealth of Championship experience, so be it.
For me, there’s no indication that Pritchard has been ‘forced out’, and his potential exit feels as though we’re not losing experience due to gaining plenty from the signing of Dack.
It’s also important to remember that there are still two weeks left in the window and new midfielders will be high on the agenda, although you’d think a more ‘traditional’ central midfielder or defensive midfielder would be the option there, considering we’ve got multiple players who can fulfil the attacking midfield and/or the ‘number ten’ role.
From the outset, the club made it clear who they intended to invest in further, with several players getting new deals and others moving on.
The fact that the three players most publicly touted to not be offered new contracts are three of our most experienced players is frustrating, but we know what to expect with the club by now.
You can argue that by the end of next summer, there could be a number of players no longer here which reaches the double figure mark, and of the players we do have, they’ll all be rounded by another season of experience - regardless of how old they are.