Who stays and who goes ahead of summer cull?
Is it exciting, or is it absolutely terrifying?
You suspect Chris Coleman is still not quite sure himself.
The Black Cats boss has on occasions spoken with real enthusiasm about the rebuild that could be ahead this summer. In one sense, it is a manager’s dream. Carte-blanche to build a team in his own image, adding to a core of young talent who have proved willing to learn and adapt in recent months.
On occasions, however, the trepidation has been obvious.
The scale of turnover this summer will be dramatic and uncertainty over the ownership of the club means Sunderland are again starting behind their rivals in the market.
Coleman and his recruitment team, who have now been in place for the best part of a year, have identified targets and like every other club, the process of sounding out has begun. That Sunderland know they will be playing in League One offers some clarity, but on budgets and direction, there is none.
Like Simon Grayson, Coleman also faces the crippling uncertainty of having little control or scope over who will leave.
Grayson wanted more departures than he got last summer but this is a supply and demand market. Sunderland’s players were not in demand last summer and a relegation from the Championship will not have helped.
So when he looks at his squad, he will see three broad groups.
In one is those who will almost certainly leave. Seven loanees, and a group of players out of contract. Given his regular comments about the robustness (or lack thereof) in his squad, it would be a surprise if many, if any, stayed on,
Wahbi Khazri and Papy Djilobodji have enjoyed good seasons in France and so should attract a permanent suitor, though there is little prospect of recouping the money spent on both.
Then there are those who the club would likely move on, should there be a willing buyer.
Top of the list will be those who do not have further relegation clauses in their contract. Sunderland’s wage bill has been more than halved in the last 12 months but it remains absolutely exorbitant for the third tier. The likes of Bryan Oviedo, Lamine Kone, Didier Ndong and Adam Matthews all signed deals in the Premier League era and, particularly in the case of the first three, are unlikely to want to play in League One.
Lee Cattermole, too, will be a big earner at that level and Coleman has a big decision to make. He is a firm admirer of the midfielder but may feel that a fresh start is needed. There has been plenty of interest in Cattermole previously but will that still be the case now?
Then there are signings from this season that not have not worked out. Steele, Ruiter, McGeady. Will there be willing takers? Until we know the answer to that question, Coleman will be heavily restricted in terms of those he brings in.
The third category could prove to be equally crucial.
The vultures are already circling for Sunderland’s young talent and at this point it is worth reflecting on Coleman’s recent comments. He has talked up the mentality of Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman, the promise of Josh Maja and Joel Asoro, He has said that Sunderland must build a team around Paddy McNair.
Four of the five are out of contract next summer, leaving Sunderland vulnerable. If they do not want to stay then the Black Cats are not in a strong position.
When he says he will not stay if it is ‘pointless’, you suspect it is as much about keeping the right players as it is spending money bringing ones in.
Then, on top of everything, is Jack Rodwell. It seems unlikely that any UK team will want to sign him and on deadline day he turned down a move to a top-tier European side.
Coleman will be desperate to reach a settlement that sees the midfielder leave this summer but can Sunderland afford it?
There is, quite clearly, a staggering amount of work to be done.
It was the same last summer, but at a crucial stage takeover talk saw the club grind to a halt and what followed was a typically dispiriting lack of imagination and vision.
Supporters who have seen the same mistakes made over and over again will understandably look ahead to the coming months with trepidation first and foremost.
Their manager will share that to an extent, still waiting to see what platform he is working from.
It has the potential to be a turning point, but for that to be the case a lot needs to happen very, very quickly.
Likely to leave: Wahbi Khazri, Papy Djilobodji, Marc Wilson, John O’Shea, Kazenga LuaLua, Billy Jones, Brendan Galloway, Tyias Browning, Ashley Fletcher, Ovie Ejaria, Jonny Williams, Jake Clarke-Salter, Lee Camp
Uncertain futures: Lee Cattermole, Jason Steele, Robbin Ruiter, Aiden McGeady, Lamine Kone, Bryan Oviedo, Aiden McGeady, Didier Ndong, Adam Matthews, Jack Rodwell
Coleman will want to stay: Joel Asoro, Josh Maja, Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair, George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Donald Love, Callum McManaman, Ethan Robson.