Sunderland takeover latest and why four youngsters could pose a big dilemma for the new regime

Josh Maja (left) and George Honeyman each have just a year left on their contracts. Picture by Frank Reid
Josh Maja (left) and George Honeyman each have just a year left on their contracts. Picture by Frank Reid

Wearside is itching for change.

Stewart Donald agreed a deal to take over Sunderland nearly two-and-a-half weeks ago, but, as of yet, little headway has been made.

That is a source of frustration, rather than concern. Dialogue with the EFL has been positive and there is confidence that approval is close.

When it comes, the managerial hunt will move quickly and the man at the helm will then be tasked with making the squad fit for purpose in League One.

That will be no mean feat, with Sunderland set for one of their busiest summers ever with regards to player turnover.

There are few players in the squad who you could say with any level of confidence will still be here come the start of next season.

The wage bill will have to be brought down and players who can thrive at the third tier will have to be found.

A manager with a strong Football League record is therefore a must. Sheffield United chief Chris Wilder and ex-Oxford boss Michael Appleton remain the frontrunners.

When the new manager arrives, much of the outgoing business will look after itself.

Many players in the current squad will want to leave and they will not face much, if any, resistance from the club.

The key will be how much Donald and his team can get for them in terms of transfer fees, and whether they can secure viable deals for the higher earners who are unlikely to see their current contracts matched elsewhere.

There will be a dilemma, however, with four youngsters who have just one year left on their deals.

Joel Asoro and Josh Maja were offered new contracts before the departure of Chris Coleman and, while the former Sunderland boss was confident that they would commit, there has not yet been definitive progress.

The pair are still very much in the nascent stages of the career, but are more than capable of playing a part next season.

Maja needs a pre-season campaign to make up for the time lost last time out, when a knee injury curtailed his rapid progress. Nevertheless, his technique and intelligence has impressed many and, as the junior member of a battery of strikers, he could be a prominent player.

Asoro’s pace is an asset that cannot be easily replaced, and the Swede’s encouraging performances on the right wing would offer added versatility to a third-tier squad.

Slightly more experienced, and potential leaders in the squad next season, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch both finished the 2017-18 season strongly, with the added bonus of having a natural affinity with the club.

In ordinary circumstances, they are four players which an incoming manager would love to have at their disposal, placing around them a sprinkling of greater League One experience.

Sunderland, though, are vulnerable.

If the quartet do not agree to new deals, and it does go without saying that there will be no bottomless pit of money this summer, then their value will decrease rapidly and the club could end up with nothing.

Even with outgoing owner Ellis Short wiping the significant debt, that is no way for a club to operate.

Cashing in now could open the door to recruiting some of the third tier’s best talent.

In an ideal world, it will not come to that.

It would be a big statement for the new regime to convince these homegrown talents that their future is on Wearside, and it would provide a new manager with some welcome continuity going into the next season.

There are no certainties, however.

The pace and scale of change will likely be breathtaking and no one’s position is set in stone.