Sunderland boss happy to keep hold of top players this summer

Sunderland's Connor Wickham
Sunderland's Connor Wickham
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GUS POYET insists keeping hold of Sunderland’s key figures this summer was just as important as bringing in new players.

The proceeds from selling the likes of Jordan Henderson, Simon Mignolet and Stephane Sessegnon have helped to fund Sunderland’s spending sprees over recent seasons, albeit the Black Cats have still made additional investments into the playing squad.

But other than the departures of out-of-contract pair Phil Bardsley and Jack Colback at the start of the summer - who both opted to reject new deals at the Stadium of Light - Sunderland have only offloaded those considered surplus to requirements.

Sunderland knocked back a couple of offers from West Ham for striker Connor Wickham, and didn’t invite follow-up interest from the inevitable enquiries they received for other players.

And with the club looking to progress after two near-misses with relegation, head coach Poyet says keeping the spine of the squad intact was crucial, particularly with nine new players arriving.

Poyet said: “I think that’s the highest point of the transfer window.

“For the first time in many, many years, we didn’t lose any of our key players.

“Maybe another year we would have lost (Vito) Mannone, (Lee) Cattermole or Wickham, or whoever finished the season well.

“But we didn’t have to make decisions about selling anyone and we’re looking forward to being a better team now.”

Poyet confirmed Sunderland didn’t receive any subsequent bids for Wickham in the final throws of the window after the Hammers had seen a brace of offers around the £5million mark rejected for the 21-year-old.

With the window now shut, one of Sunderland’s priorities over the upcoming months is to finally tie Wickham down to a new contract after talks so far have failed to reach an agreement.

But Poyet is keeping calm over Wickham’s contract situation - despite his current deal expiring next summer - with the £8m frontman an ever-present for Sunderland so far this season, albeit he has been used in a wide role.

Poyet added: “I think we are relaxed and I think Connor is relaxed too. He knows where we are.

“And he’s playing.

“He’s playing because he deserves it, not because I’m just playing him.

“He enjoys playing wide, but I would prefer him to play in the middle. It’s been a matter of what’s needed.”