Alex Rae thinks new boss Jack Ross could face some very tough decisions as he begins the cull and rebuild needed ahead of the new season. With players out of contract and many others on huge wages Ross faces an uphill task in balancing the books and assembling a competitive side: "There will be curve balls like trying to negotiate to get people off contracts," explained Rae. "A lot of guys will be released, guys such as John O’Shea who are coming to the end of their contract but the problem is there are some players on serious wages who have played predominantly in the Premier League for the last six or seven years. Now they are down in League One and that brings its own issues. Will they want to stay in League One? If not, what other clubs will take them having suffered back-to-back relegations. And for those who remain on these big contracts how does Jack maintain harmony in the dressing room when there is such a disparity in wages from guys he brings in? It’s a challenge to balance the books while also keeping the harmony within the dressing room. Jack is going to be saying to a few guys you’re not part of my plans but by the same token you don’t want them to be disruptive and that’s where your management skills comes into it. He has managed Alloa and St Mirren but this is a different playground altogether – and it will be good for him."
Rae reckons a swift return to the Championship could well be on the cards and explained how important it is to get the fans back on side: "It’s an unbelievable opportunity for Jack to go down south and get a promotion under his belt at the first time of asking. I expect them to win League One and come straight back up. I’m down in the north east quite a bit and have an understanding of where the club were and what has changed. "Sunderland was in serious debt until recently under previous owner Ellis Short but he has pretty much swallowed that debt now. My understanding is that the next two parachute payments may well offset some of his debt but it means the fella who has come in is taking control of a club that’s debt free. It’s a totally different situation from the one Derek knocked back. They’ve gone from one extreme to another resulting in back-to-back relegations but if Jack can get the club going in the right direction that can all change very quickly. The chairman’s on-record saying they will have the biggest budget in the division which doesn’t surprise me with the fanbase they have. I have been round about that League One level when I was at MK Dons and within that period we had teams like Leeds, Southampton and Norwich who all bounced straight back up because they had the fanbase and revenue to do that. If Jack can get that fanbase mobilised again the potential is huge. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him.”
Meanwhile Stewart Donald insists that we'll not be making the same recruitment mistakes we have in the past as hes ready to do his homework on any new signings. He also hopes that the fans will cut him a little slack as he prepares to begin the biggest job of his life: “We’ve got to get the right players to fit the culture and then ensure that we don’t lose that through the journey,” said Donald. "The higher up you go the harder that becomes, but it isn’t impossible. If the academy can play its part by bringing through youngsters with the right core values then we’ll have a chance. We’ve got to do our due diligence on the players, on the face of it that hasn’t been done well enough. They don’t appear to care enough, and if they don’t care enough then people aren’t going to relate to them. Everything I have said, you are not going to know if it’s right until we get going, are you? All I need is for the fans to give me a chance. Even if things go wrong through that process - a few things will, but we’ll try and make sure player recruitment isn’t one of them - as long as I’m communicating and being honest, I think they will accept that. No-one gets everything right, but I don’t think it’s difficult to set a culture from the top and expect that culture all the way through. I’ve got to set the tone, and try to change what has happened over the last 10 years.”
Donald has also vowed to investigate the decision to keep Sunderland Ladies out of the new Women’s Super League and Championship: "The ladies application was submitted to the league ages ago. It was one of the first things I enquiries on and the situation was the club was awaiting the FA decision based on the application that was submitted. It doesn’t matter who is at fault at this stage. It is the ladies and girls that suffer so we just need to try and get a sensible resolution to the situation. Another job for next week - there mounting up."
Head of woman’s football Baroness Sue Campbell went on to explained why Sunderland Ladies have not been included in the new WSL and Championship: "Sunderland didn't apply when we had the closed opportunity to do so. They then came back in at the open opportunity, but at that point they were in competition with 15 clubs that had put a lot of time and effort into putting their application in. They haven't had the support they've needed from the men's club for some time. We're not going to abandon the North East. We're going to a put a talent academy for 16 to 20-year-olds at Northumbria University and we're going to build again from the bottom up. Many of these players are stepping into the Super League or Championship clubs long before they're 20. If we can make sure that talent pathway is still there in the North East, and then hopefully work with a major club in the North East to rebuild a women's senior team."