GUS POYET says it’s natural that Sunderland will now turn their attention to those out-of-contract at the end of next season after tying down Connor Wickham to a new deal.
Wickham ended months of negotiations over his future this week by putting pen to paper on a four-year contract extension at the Stadium of Light.
After skipper John O’Shea agreed a new two-year deal earlier this season, it leaves 35-year-old duo Wes Brown and Anthony Reveillere as the only members of the first-team squad who are out of contract next summer.
That’s a far healthier situation than the end of last season when Jack Colback, Phil Bardsley and Craig Gardner all left for nothing at the conclusion of their deals.
Speculation earlier this week suggested that Sunderland would now look to extend the contract of midfielder Lee Cattermole beyond its 2016 expiry date.
And Poyet expects the Black Cats to cast an eye towards the futures of the likes of Cattermole, Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson – all entering the final 18 months of their deals – in the New Year.
Poyet said: “I think normally when it’s a player who is playing week-in, week-out, depending on the age, most clubs will starting talking about it with 18 months to go.
“That’s so you don’t get into the last year.
“But there’s two sides to it remember.
“We always talk about the clubs, but we forget about the player.
“We negotiated with Jack (Colback) and then he said no, so we stopped.
“It was not like we didn’t want him or didn’t talk early. It’s two sides in the negotiations.
“Sometimes the players are prepared to wait.
“Me, I waited all the time. Tanno (Mauricio Taricco, Sunderland assistant manager) signed straight away. That shows how players can be completely opposite.
“But we are in a better situation now and we know the progress of the team.
“We’re trying to plan ahead on that.
“The meetings we’ve had with the recruitment system, we’ve got a projection of the team.
“That’s a process, but if we can plan a bit ahead, that’s perfect.”
Sunderland had been in talks over extending Wickham’s contract – which was due to expire next summer – since the 21-year-old’s pivotal contribution towards the Black Cats remaining in the Premier League last season.
That delicately-balanced contract situation had not gone unnoticed by Sunderland’s Premier League peers with West Ham submitting a couple of bids during the summer, while Crystal Palace were also keeping tabs on the England Under-21 international.
“No, we wouldn’t have wanted it to go to January,” admitted Poyet.
“Other teams would be looking at a player like Connor with only six months on his contract.
“They would have thought they could have got him cheap.
“It took a little bit longer than we thought, but it was only a matter of time.
“I thought in the summer it was possible.
“I had a feeling that after what Connor did and knowing that this season would be different for him in terms of how we looked at him as a player, it would be alright.
“But then no, and then you’re into the season.
“The closer it gets to the end of contract, of course it gets more difficult.”