As Sunderland fans eagerly anticipate white smoke emerging from the Stadium of Light, the ‘to do’ list in the new manager’s in tray continues to grow.
Sunderland have a shorter than usual summer with the players returning to training on June 29 ahead of the new Championship season kicking off on August 5.
Time is precious as the hunt continues for the new Sunderland boss.
Chief executive Martin Bain is leading the search, a search that has stepped up this week following a period of reflection by the Sunderland hierarchy following David Moyes’ resignation.
And when the new man is appointed, they will have to hit the ground running.
Incomings and outgoings:
Sunderland’s squad will undergo major surgery this summer, with several players set to be released when their deals expire and the three loanees Adnan Januzaj, Jason Denayer and Javier Manquillo having already returned to their parent clubs.
Jermain Defoe will leave on a free, interest is rising in £30million-rated Jordan Pickford while the likes of Fabio Borini, Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone will almost certainly depart to help balance the books.
The new man will want reassurances over which of the current squad he will be able to call upon next season and which are definitely up for sale.
With debt levels standing at £110million, a huge wage bill and reduced revenue to deal with next season, the likelihood is most of the squad will have a ‘for sale’ sign over their heads.
With owner Ellis Short still looking to offload the club, the new manager will be in no doubt as to the task facing them.
Inevitably, transfers out of the club will drag on throughout the summer.
The chances of Sunderland having a settled squad by the time the new season kicks off are slim, though, the same can of course be said for most clubs.
But with so much up in the air a huge summer of transfer business awaits and the new man at the helm must be prepared to move swiftly and decisively when it comes to improving the squad.
Funds will be limited. The loan and free agent market again key.
Robust players, capable of coping with the demanding 46-game Championship season are a must, as is adding much-needed pace and goals. A goalkeeper – provided Pickford and Vito Mannone depart – centre-back, wide men and strikers the priority.
Sunderland managed a measly 29 Premier League goals last season. Defoe, who will leave, scored 15 of them.
Moyes had deals already lined up before deciding to walk away.
With a new man comes new transfer targets but Sunderland can’t afford to leave it as late as last season to bolster their squad otherwise they will, once again, be left behind.
“Sunderland will be the biggest club in Championship, and that should help us attract players,” said Moyes in the final weeks of his tenure.
Sunderland fans live in hope.
Always eagerly anticipated, Sunderland are yet to confirm their retained list.
George Honeyman has already signed a new two-year deal but the futures of John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, Jan Kirchhoff & Co remain unclear.
It would be a major surprise should injury-hit Kirchhoff be handed a new deal though Moyes had hinted O’Shea would be in line for a new contract.
The retained list may be confirmed before the new manager takes charge but they are likely to want to have their say.
The bulk of Sunderland’s pre-season plans have already been outlined, with a week-long training camp in Austria followed by domestic friendlies in England and Scotland.
There will also be a show-piece friendly at the Stadium of Light to mark the 20-year anniversary, while a friendly on foreign soil hasn’t been ruled out.
The finer details will all have to be confirmed and with just over a month before the players return there is no time to waste.
Win back the fans:
It became abundantly clear that Moyes had lost a significant chunk of the fanbase.
The chants against him started in the 2-2 draw with West Ham United and continued as the season drew to a close.
Not everyone had lost faith but a large number had and the atmosphere threatened to turn toxic on more than one occasion.
There will inevitably be a fresh wave of optimism when the appointment is confirmed and it is crucial the new boss builds on that from the off.
The financial picture is bleak for Sunderland but the club remains a massive draw and will be one of – if not the – biggest clubs in the Championship next season.
The passionate fanbase is huge and a major asset, as is the Stadium of Light itself.
A positive approach is needed from day one to help win back those fans that finally ran out of patience with Sunderland last season.