Kristjaan Speakman explains departure of senior Sunderland players and answers big experience question

Sunderland's sporting director has explained his thinking behind sanctioning some controversial departures in the summer window

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Kristjaan Speakman says he is 'comfortable' with the level of experience in Sunderland's squad after sanctioning the departures of Lynden Gooch and Danny Batth on deadline day.

With Ross Stewart leaving for Southampton and Bailey Wright moving on following his loan spell at Rotherham, it was a summer window which saw some of the squad's most senior players depart.

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That has led to some understandable concern about the balance of the squad in a period when the focus of incoming business was again on talented young players.

Speakman says the arrival of Bradley Dack brings significant experience into the group to balance those summer changes and says it is time for some of the now more experienced youngsters to develop their leadership roles in the pitch.

The Sporting director said the decision to let Gooch and Batth go was not financially motivated but made out of respect for their desire to be prominent players; neither started the campaign in Tony Mowbray's starting XI.

"It wasn’t a necessity [financially]," Speakman said.

"Players are at their best when they are fully involved. I think it’s very difficult when you’ve got players that aren’t in the team, and then if they’re not in the team we’re not naturally in the position where we’re going to be offering them contracts.

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"Naturally that then creates some anxiety for those players. They’re not robots, you can’t say, ‘be on the bench but be 100% behind it’. We all work in our respective environments and you want to feel part of it. So it’s just about honest conversations with those players.

"I don’t think the squad is any weaker for the changes we’ve made, we’ve got balance. Bradley Dack brings a huge amount of professionalism and experience to the team, and you’ve got players like Dan Neil who’ve now played over 100 games. Dan Ballard is similar, we just feel it’s constantly evolving.

"We're comfortable with the balance we've got. Some of the players [who've left] weren't in the team [at the start of the season]. We're a young, up and coming team would be the narrative but I feel we have loads of experience as well. We're after quality and all I can say is that we're comfortable with it."

Alex Pritchard was another senior player linked with a move as he entered the final year of his contract, but in the end no move materialised.

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Speakman suggested that he would have to play his way into a regular starting role before any discussions over an extension would take place.

"There’s a group of players who have done really well and Pritch is in that," Speakman said.

"I think naturally players who are running into that final year of their contract and are a little bit older, they’re looking for security and to ensure they’ve got some years on a contract. We’re happy to engage in that when players are in the team.

"For Alex, he’s committed here and performed really well. Alex’s job is to try and get into the team like every player.

"I’m aware some stuff came out about some of those senior players, but we’ve always had honest conversations with them."

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