April 13, 2024

Sunderland will continue to negotiate a contract with Jack Clarke in the second half of the season, with Kristjaan Speakman insisting the club’s financial model does not rely on selling one of its marquee players.

Clarke’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2026, but the Black Cats’ administration has been hoping to tie the winger down to a new longer-term contract that will give them more security over his future.

However, Sunderland’s administrative committee has been unable to strike a deal with Clarke and his representation, fueling suspicion that the club’s best scorer would leave Wearside.

Clarke was linked with West Ham, Brentford, and Burnley during last month’s transfer window, after Sunderland rejected a formal approach from Lazio, and he is certain to be targeted in the summer.

The Black Cats will continue to try to reach an agreement on a new contract before then, with Speakman claiming that the club has not given up hope.

“I don’t think it (contract talks) ever runs its course,” the Black Cats’ sporting director stated. “There are always continuous discussions. I believe everyone is currently content with where things stand, and those discussions will continue.

 

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“There are numerous factors that might influence this as time passes, but we have always maintained a very open line of communication with players and their representatives. We talked a lot about Ross Stewart, and it was never a matter of on, off, on, off. It was just continuing, and I believe that is how it is done in the present game.”

Sunderland’s recruitment model has shifted dramatically in recent years, with a concentration on the acquisition and development of young players with high sell-on value.

So far, Stewart is the only senior player that the new regime has sold for a considerable profit, although Clarke, Anthony Patterson, Dan Ballard, and Dan Neil may all attract outside attention this summer.

The club’s business model is based, at least in part, on selling to reinvest, but Speakman insists one of the club’s marquee players will not be leaving at the conclusion of the season.

“I think it’s a blend,” he added. “If you were able to maintain our group together and move it ahead, you might claim that you don’t need to sell a player and may instead go for promotion. I believe we’re very close to that given the people we have.

“Ultimately, the club will move at a particular speed, as will the players. With the players, it can be fairly quick; for example, a centre-forward or a wide player may be at your club, score ten goals, and all of a sudden they’re in demand and have the possibility to move much faster than the club can – since we have to move by seasons and players can move by windows, if that makes sense.

“I don’t see a problem with trading as part of being successful; I believe everyone does it. Ultimately, we’ll just strive to make the correct decision for the club whenever those crucial questions arise.”

Speakman does, however, acknowledge that Clarke’s predicament will eventually come to a head if the current contractual standoff persists. Understandably, Sunderland does not want to risk the winger’s worth declining when his contract expires, thus a decision will be taken if a new deal is not reached.

“Every player has their own journey,” explained Speakman. “I don’t believe it’s ever necessary to sell or relocate a player; it’s simply about finding the appropriate sweet spot for everyone.

“I don’t think Jack will have to transfer in the summer, but if you don’t sign a new contract, the clock starts running down and you become a free agent.

“I’m sure Jack doesn’t want to go through that two-year period and neither do we, so it’s just about discussing a contract, seeing where those parameters are at, and then seeing where the market is at with regards to what opportunities there may be for him to move on at some point.”

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