Kristjaan Speakman is SAFC’s new Sporting Director. The 41-year-old arrives from Birmingham City and a club statement says he will “take primary responsibility for reviewing and implementing new strategies to develop the club’s footballing infrastructure, with an emphasis on data analytics and innovation, and providing a clear pathway from the younger age groups to the first team.”

Speaking of the appointment, Speakman said: “I have been tasked with delivering a best-in-class player development model from the academy through to the senior squad and given a realistic timeframe and budget with which to do so. It is an absolute honour to have been invited to do this at one of England’s biggest clubs. The blueprint for the future and the ambition to create a sustainable structure with a clear identity is one I will work diligently and passionately to bring to fruition for Sunderland fans. I’m grateful for the autonomy granted me by the ownership group to pursue this plan and create something we can all be proud of.”

“We understand the frustration of the present circumstances and whilst we seek patience and continued support for the longer-term objectives, we are absolutely determined to fix key issues in the short term to establish a winning team. The task of appointing a Head Coach who is both aligned to the overall plan and capable of impacting the team’s performance and style in the immediate weeks and months is a priority above all else. I fully understand the potential of the football club and I’m looking forward to working collectively with staff, players and fans to restore the club to its rightful place in the Premier League. There’s no doubt about the size of the task ahead of us and the need to be pragmatic in our approach, but we all share the same dream and the work starts now to make this a reality.”