Sunderland still negotiating players’ contracts

Connor Wickham.

Connor Wickham.

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SUNDERLAND will wait until the second half of the season to assess Wes Brown’s contract situation, with Connor Wickham’s deal still the club’s overwhelming priority.

The Black Cats agreed a two-year extension to skipper John O’Shea’s stay at the Stadium of Light this week, leaving Brown and Wickham as the only members of the first-team squad whose contracts are due to expire next summer.

Gus Poyet has confirmed that talks with Wickham are continuing, although the Sunderland boss is taking a backward seat to sporting director Lee Congerton in the negotiations.

But with Brown, 35, a couple of years older than O’Shea, Sunderland expect to wait another three or four months to discuss the former England international’s future.

Poyet said: “We’re doing things in a certain way and timescale.

“But for sure, Wes will know when we’re doing it and how.

“I think it’s a matter of timing.”

When asked about Wickham, he added: “I think we are in contact already.

“I don’t want to get involved in the negotiations, to affect what we do. We’ll see.”

Sunderland have been consciously pro-active in the contract situations of the squad after losing Phil Bardsley and Jack Colback for nothing last June.

That led them to extending Vito Mannone’s deal in July, tying down O’Shea and holding prolonged talks with Wickham’s representatives, albeit Sunderland would be due compensation if the 21-year-old leaves next summer.

“It was a tough year last year in every aspect,” said Poyet.

“We all learn, especially with the players finishing contracts.

“We needed to start earlier, especially when it’s clear.

“Sometimes you don’t know and there’s other possibilities.

“But this one (O’Shea) was straightforward and Connor is similar.

“We are doing things right, quietly and then when we reach an agreement, it will come out.

“It’s important that we don’t make mistakes.”

O’Shea’s contract extension is likely to see the Republic of Ireland international see out his playing career at the Stadium of Light.

But Poyet insists he has not looked beyond that, over whether O’Shea – who is currently taking his coaching badges – will begin to develop his coaching career at Sunderland.

“I didn’t ask him,” said Poyet.

“But I think he’s got everything to stay involved in football.

“The way he talks, the way he cares about things, how he analyses football and how much he knows about it.

“Does he want to do that? That’s up to him.

“I need to be honest, we look at the player on the pitch and he’s been great.

“He’s been on top of that.

“He represents the club well and represents the players as the link between the staff.

“He’s always there to help. He’s not afraid to answer questions and take responsibility.

“He’s a very good professional to have at the club.”