Sunderland contract news: The three other crucial calls looming

Ross Stewart's ongoing contract impasse with Sunderland understandably remains one of the key talking points on Wearside but it is far from the only issue to be resolved.

Here, we explain three other key contract calls to be made...

DENNIS CIRKIN

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Most of the players who see their contract expire in 18 months time, for example Luke O'Nien and Lynden Gooch, will likely want to see how their role develops in the squad over the next few windows and the club will feel similarly.

One clear outlier, though, is Dennis Cirkin.

Though he had an understandably up-and-down first season in League One, he finished it in superb form and has very much picked up where he left off at a higher level. Only injury has checked his encouraging progress ever so slightly.

Versatile, combative and comfortable stepping out with the ball, he's one of many who've caught the eye of top-level sides. A new deal would not only reward his progress but protect his value from the club's perspective. His age, position and now experience marks him out as a key asset within the group - and that needs to be recognised.

ALEX PRITCHARD

Sunderland defender Dennis Cirkin

Pritchard's importance to Sunderland cannot be understated. He remains their most dependable creator and his footballing intelligence means that he is also vital off the ball - the last three Sunderland head coaches have all trusted him to lead the team's press.

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Moving north to Wearside was a 'reset' moment for Pritchard, who had seen his career momentum stall. Up until this point it has been a huge success for both parties.

Sunderland are stacked with creatively talented players but there is no obvious heir to Pritchard's number ten role with Elliot Embleton facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines. As such he's not a player Sunderland could afford to lose yet - though of course he will have his own decision to make an important juncture in his career.

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We graded how every Sunderland player has fared in the first half of the season ...

DANNY BATTH

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Having stepped down from League One around a year ago there would have been some question marks about the centre half stepping up but he has been one of Sunderland's most consistent players this season, continuing his excellent form from the play-off campaign.

With a young squad full of technicians both his nous and aerial dominance has been absolutely vital, and key to the often inexperienced player alongside him.

It's not a position in which Sunderland have big vulnerability - Danny Ballard and Aji Alese are huge emerging talents and Luke O'Nien is making a real impact at the moment. Bailey Wright adds additional experience and depth, while Dennis Cirkin is excellent on the left of a back three. That may leave Sunderland feeling this isn't one of their very top priorities right now but you wouldn't want Batth to leave; he has a key role in developing these young players and helping churn out results.

Corry Evans is another experienced and currently hugely important player whose contract expires at the end of the current season. However, Sunderland have an option to automatically extend that for a further season and as such there is no need for an urgent decision.

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Maintain his current form and Sunderland will undoubtedly trigger that additional year - he continues to excel in his own understated way.