Phil Smith Q&A at Sunderland AFC: Where do the Black Cats stand as they target new recruits and what happens next


Sporting director Kristjaan Speakman spoke with Echo Monday to discuss the summer to date, the progress made and the important work that remains to be done.

With a few key gaps remaining in the squad. Phil Smith answered questions on all the latest fan developments in his weekly Q&A.

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Sunderland Head Coach Lee Johnson

Where are we with the new recruits? We need a new goalkeeper, 2 full-backs and at least one striker? And we need it on permanent contracts, not on loans?

Overall I agree with your assessment of what’s needed, although personally I would say another option in central defense is more important than a new goalie.

Sunderland wants to play with a high line and at the back as much as possible this year and while Arbenit Xhemajli is working on fitness you need someone to help Callum Doyle who is natural in terms of those attributes.

Two full-backs, a new center-back and a striker are certainly the club’s four priorities, and he will then clearly become three full-backs if Denver Hume does not agree to a new deal.

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman

I do not agree with the view that Sunderland should not seek loans.

They’ve been absolutely crucial for a lot of the teams that have beaten the Black Cats on promotion in recent years and that’s an area where I think they need to do better.

Dion Sanderson was a terrific addition last year and Callum Doyle will hopefully be the same; the signs so far have certainly been good.

I agree that in keeping with the vision presented by the new regime in terms of the club’s long-term future, you would expect to see investments in permanent additions that can grow with the club.

Kristjaan Speakman said the club have some big offers on the table so hopefully we’ll see some progress on that soon.

It’s a big couple of weeks, no doubt.

What’s the latest with Daniel Jebbison and the interest there?

Ross Stewart has had a really good preseason in the way he brought some variety to Sunderland’s offense, able to run behind and really stretch the game.

With McGeady, Pritchard, Embleton, etc., that’s going to be key to how the Black Cats try to hurt teams.

Sunderland clearly doesn’t want to be too reliant on Stewart and so, no matter what happens with Will Grigg by the end of the window, they want another option.

Jebbison was at the Stadium of Light last Friday to watch part of the Hull game, see the facilities, get a feel for the area and speak to key figures.

Sources said that at this point no decision had been made and it was accepted that Jebbison would need some time to make the right decision for his future.

Sheffield United have already made the decision to let him go on loan, so it’s just a matter of where he goes.

They are supposed to be in principle happy that he is coming to Sunderland (and my colleague from Star of Sheffield says it is manager’s preference), but there is interest elsewhere in League One and with some of these teams suffering from significant pre-season injuries, they may think they can guarantee more playing time .

I imagine all interested clubs will reach a point where they want a decision so we’ll see how that plays out in the next few days.

I think patience is the key to the new philosophy and there are positive signs, but what are your positive and negative points about the transfer philosophy?

Well, I think the first thing to say is that there is clearly no scenario in which you would find it ideal or acceptable not to have senior full-backs so close to the start of the season. as possible.

The good thing is that for the first time in a long time I think there is a really clear style of play and that should mean that players have a better chance of being successful when they arrive because the role is clear and they have been recruited to run it.

I also totally agree that the club should avoid contracting a player that he could potentially be left trying to get rid of next summer as he wasn’t entirely convinced this time. It is a cycle that has long had to be broken.

I’m confident Sunderland’s transfer business will improve in the long run thanks to the new structure, but there is clearly pressure for the squad to be strong enough to meet the goal of winning promotion this season.

Sunderland has essentially taken the gamble of achieving better quality by being patient.

Hope they are right.

Is there something to look forward to ?!

The style of football is improving and there are some talented youngsters that we can expect to see more of this season.

There is now proper infrastructure leadership and attention, which many of us have called for.

That’s not to say that there aren’t issues to be addressed and as I said in the previous question, it’s fair to expect that these key gaps in the squad will be addressed properly.

I hope to see investments in younger players with potential in the coming weeks, but I think the club are in a better position than a year ago.

Do Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven have a say in transfers or who leaves the club?

(This answer comes from last week’s Q&A, but answers the same question).

There are certain aspects on which the other shareholders have their say following the agreement reached with Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, but as the majority shareholder, it is the 24-year-old who drives and who is ultimately responsible for football strategy.

Juan Sartori is on the board and therefore has a contribution in this regard, but not Donald (although his views are obviously represented).

Targets are identified on a collaborative basis between hiring manager Stuart Harvey, head coach Lee Johnson and athletic director Kristjaan Speakman.

Data analysis plays a big role in this, alongside more traditional screening.

Speakman is leading the negotiations with other clubs and targets, while the final decision in terms of sanctioned fees / expenses will of course always rest with Louis-Dreyfus.

The board and the ownership group will of course be responsible for the progress and decisions of the club as a whole, but it is Louis-Dreyfus and Speakman who are ultimately primarily responsible for Sunderland’s progress on the pitch ( in my opinion, at least).

Clearly unresolved questions remain in terms of Madrox, the ownership structure and in particular the current position of their stated commitment to address the parachute payment issue.

But on the ground, that will be the Louis-Dreyfus vision.

I think that, generally speaking, the communication around the deal that Louis-Dreyfus made to buy the club was not transparent enough, and it clearly did not help in terms of anxiety that many fans have had this summer.

What happened with Liverpool left-back Tony Gallacher reportedly set to move?

We spoke to Lee Johnson when it was reported that a deal was imminent and he simply said Gallacher was one of the many options Sunderland was considering in this position.

There is no doubt that Sunderland has explored a move and discussions have taken place on the terms of it.

In the end, they decided to pursue other options.

Whether or not that was successful, and how these players fare, will, I guess, define the wisdom of this call.

Why hasn’t Sunderland left Denver Hume?

Sunderland believes the injury Hume is still recovering from had an impact on the negotiations and also meant there is less time pressure as he was never going to be fit for the early stages of the season.

As such, they were more than happy to give Hume time to assess his options, as have a number of other players they have negotiated with elsewhere.

We are now approaching a time when the Black Cats need a decision, without a doubt.

What’s going on with the backroom staff? There are now two key vacancies?

I think some turnover was inevitable, especially since Andrew Taylor and Lee Butler were brought to the club by Phil Parkinson to be part of his backroom team.

The timing may not be ideal, but I expect the goaltending coach situation to be sorted out very, very soon.

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