Sunderland prepared for a scrap to hold on to key midfielders

Paddy McNair (left) enjoys his goal against Wolves with Bryan Oviedo. Picture by Frank Reid
Paddy McNair (left) enjoys his goal against Wolves with Bryan Oviedo. Picture by Frank Reid

Sunderland face a battle to hold on to midfielders George Honeyman and Paddy McNair this summer.

The pair are attracting interest from the Championship following Sunderland’s relegation to League One, with Northern Ireland international McNair, in particular, a man in demand.

McNair emphatically put his injury troubles behind him in the latter period of the season, scoring four goals in five games.

The 23-year-old is one of very few Sunderland players whose value has arguably increased this season, and, while the new regime would be eager to keep him, it remains to be seen whether a significant bid for his services would force their hand.

Honeyman is another man with suitors after impressing over the course of Sunderland’s relegation.

After the team’s demotion was confirmed, he insisted that he wanted to help get the club back to where it belongs, but he has since been linked with a raft of clubs.

Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham and Aston Villa have all been credited with an interest.

He said: “I’m just desperate to do well. I’ve seen it here in the good times and I’m desperate to be part of it, to be here when there’s 40,000 cheering and kicking every ball for you, and you’re giving them something back – to be part of a club really on the up.

“That’s not happening at the minute and we’ve got to do whatever we can.

“We need a good work ethic and discipline in the place, people who want to be here.”

Honeyman, who is represented by former Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne, has just one year left on his current deal.

Former boss Chris Coleman hinted that he would be offered an extension shortly before his departure.

Stewart Donald’s consortium are still waiting for EFL approval for their takeover of the club, but at this stage are unconcerned by the slow progress.

He still expects to be approved and there is certain to be a significant summer overhaul when that happens.

He will be keen to move on the vast majority of those who dropped down from the Premier League with the club, in order to bring the wage bill down to a size more appropriate for the revenues that League One offers.

Wahbi Khazri is one player who the Black Cats will look to cash in on, with a number of Ligue 1 clubs keen. Sunderland are likely to need around 14 new players, and will have to rebuild almost entirely in key areas of the pitch.