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What now for Sunderland’s young star Jordan Pickford?

Martyn Cooke

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In a season that has been characterised by gloom, disappointment and negativity, the one shining light for Sunderland supporters has been the emergence of young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The 23-year-old is a local boy, born and raised in Washington, and whilst he ultimately failed to prevent The Black Cats from suffering relegation to The Championship there are few that could question his effort, attitude or application over the last twelve months.

In fact, Pickford has pulled off so many stunning stops, blocks and finger-tip acrobatics that he has cemented a reputation as being one of England’s brightest young goalkeeping prospects.

On Saturday he produced another Man of the Match performance in Sunderland’s two goal victory at the KCOM Stadium and his deluge of saves may well play a key role in dragging Hull City into the second tier of English football along with the beleaguered Black Cats.

However, Pickford’s starring performances have attracted an ever-lengthening list of admirers throughout the top-flight and Sunderland are now in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to fight to retain their young goalkeeper’s services or cash in over the summer.

The Telegraph have reported that Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and West Ham United are all keeping tabs on the 23-year-old and it would appear that it is simply a question of when, rather than if, a multi-million pound offer lands in the inbox at the Stadium of Light.

David Moyes, assuming that he retains his position as manager over the summer, now has a key decision to make.

Does he strive to ensure that Pickford remains a Sunderland player, providing the Black Cats with a quality goalkeeper as they look to challenge for promotion next season, or, knowing full well that transfer funds will be in short supply, does he look to cash in? His ultimate decision could decide the club’s trajectory for the next decade.

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What next for Sunderland and Pickford?

Moyes has scoffed at claims that Sunderland have placed a £17,000,000 asking price on Pickford’s head and reports in the media suggest that the Black Cats are looking for offers in the region of £25,000,000. In a squad that currently lacks any valuable assets, barring their young goalkeeper, such a large income of cash would provide the club with a substantial amount of money to invest in players over the summer.

It would provide Moyes with the funds to rebuild and remould a team capable of bouncing back into the top flight whilst giving him plenty of room to wheel and deal in the transfer market. With continuing uncertainty surrounding the motives of Ellis Short and the lack of investment from the American over the last eighteen months, selling Pickford may be the only option for Moyes if he wants to fund an overhaul of the playing squad.

Whilst Sunderland’s primary concern will be to maximise the profit made on any potential sale, Pickford will need to ensure that he chooses a new club wisely. At the age of 23 and still very much in the infancy of his career the goalkeeper will require regular game time in order to continue his development – sitting on the bench at an elite club would be of no benefit.

With this in mind a move to Arsenal or Manchester United would not seem beneficial, with Petr Cech and David de Gea firmly cemented as first choices, whilst it is unclear as to what the thought processes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in relation to their club’s goalkeeping departments.

At the Etihad Stadium Joe Hart seems destined to depart in the summer with his replacement Claudio Bravo failing to impress whilst at Liverpool neither Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius have made the number one jersey their own this season. Pickford will certainly need guarantees that he will be first choice before seriously considering a move to either of the latter two clubs.

Everton and West Ham United would be the more logical options, although it remains to be seen whether Ronald Koeman or Slaven Bilic would be prepared to spend such an excessive amount on a goalkeeper.

If Jordan Pickford is to be sold in the summer it would undoubtedly break Sunderland hearts as well as his own. However, his sale could fund the rebuilding project that the Black Cats desperately need if they are to challenge for promotion next campaign whilst regular first team football at a top-half Premier League club could push the 23-year-old into consideration for a call-up to the senior England squad. It seems like the only question is when and for what price the young starlet will depart Wearside.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Tim Hickman (Tim Hickman)

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Championship

Sunderland need to bring back Mick McCarthy to lead rebuild

The 59-year-old managed the Black Cats for three years back in 2003.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Sunderland have had an awful last few seasons and that culminated on Saturday in relegation from the Championship.

The Black Cats become the first team to suffer back-to-back relegations from the Premier League since Wolverhampton Wanderers across the 2011/12 and 2012/13 campaigns.

The Midlands club have since managed to rebuild and they will be returning to the top-flight next season after a six-year absence.

It might feel like an unrecoverable position for Sunderland, but there are a few examples in recent history of teams dropping to the third tier before coming back as a stronger outfit.

Wolves are the latest one, while Southampton managed to achieve the same not too long ago.

The most important thing for the Black Cats is that they use this as an opportunity to completely rebuild the club and they will need an experienced manager to lead that this summer.

Chris Coleman has come across well in the media since taking over at the Stadium of Light, but the results on the pitch haven’t picked up and a change in the dugout will provide the club with a completely new start.

(Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

If the job does become available, it will take a certain type of manager to want to take it.

The rebuild won’t be easy and the financial implications of a double relegation mean that the right approach will need to be taken.

One name that jumps out as a great candidate is Mick McCarthy.

The former Ipswich Town manager has had success at the Stadium of Light before and he will be looking for a new challenge.

During his previous spell at the club, he managed to rally the club after relegation and get them back up to the Premier League at the second attempt.

He was eventually dismissed for a poor season in the top-flight, but, overall, he performed well.

His fiery style of management looks to be a perfect fit for Sunderland in their current state.

Their fall through the leagues has been due to many factors, one of which has been a lack of passion and application from the players.

McCarthy won’t be afraid to jettison a lot of the squad and start a completely fresh chapter in League One.

Although emotion shouldn’t often affect decisions made in the board room, it can be a positive to bring in somebody that has a connection to the club.

(Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Sunderland have completely lost their soul over the last decade and they need to have people at the club that care.

McCarthy would love to be the manager to rebuild the club and he has a point to prove after his Ipswich tenure finished on a sour note.

The best response to his critics would be to take another job and prove his credentials again. The job at Sunderland looks to be a perfect fit, both for McCarthy and the club.

Sunderland have become used to losing during the last ten years and a long line of managers have failed to change that mentality.

Throughout his managerial career, McCarthy has a win percentage of 38.8% and is a proven quantity in the Football League.

It may not be the ‘sexiest’ of appointments, but he would certainly stamp his authority on the squad and he is the best man for the job.

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Championship

Four goals in last three games: Could Luke Molyneux be Sunderland’s unlikely hero?

The 20-year-old has been in fine form for the Sunderland under-23s.

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Sunderland are still fighting to stay in the Championship. An improvement in performances has seen them lose just once in their last five games. Unfortunately, they have drawn their last three games, all three fixtures in which they could have taken all three points.

Therefore, Sunderland are still bottom of the league table and six points off of safety with just three games left to play.

So should the Black Cats consider throwing in one of their in-form under-23 players?

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The player in question is attacking midfielder Luke Molyneux. The 20-year-old, who can also play on the wing, has been in sublime form recently. That form continued this weekend.

The young attacker scored twice in the 4-1 win against Leicester City this afternoon. That followed another brace against Everton in a 2-1 win – taking his tally to four goals in his last three appearances.

His excellent form has helped pull Sunderland out of the relegation zone in the Premier League 2 Division One. Could he do it for the first-team?

Sunderland have certainly improved their performances, but bringing in someone who is in such great form could be a masterstroke from Chris Coleman.

Molyneux could be an impact sub for the Black Cats in the final three games of the season and could bring his current goalscoring knack into the first-team.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Regardless of whether Sunderland decide to give him a shot in the first-team or not, his form is certainly looking good enough to warrant a new contract.

He is one of many at Sunderland whose contracts expire in the summer, but given his fine recent form surely he will be retained when the lists are announced next month?

If that is the case, perhaps this season will come along too soon for Molyneux. But if Sunderland do drop into League One, the attacker might have a better chance of playing regular first-team football at the Stadium of Light.

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Championship

Is Tom Beadling doing enough to earn a contract U-turn at Sunderland?

The Australian youngster has been in good form since joining Dunfermline Athletic.

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There has not been much to smile about at Sunderland this season. It has been another drab campaign at the Stadium of Light, with first Simon Grayson and now Chris Coleman failing to turn around the fortunes of an ailing side.

Sunderland are now looking doomed to relegation and League One beckons. With that in mind, it is time to start looking toward next season and what could be some positives for Sunderland.

Whilst relegation will be a big blow, they can also be hopeful that some of their young players will step up and take advantage of a chance at a lower level.

(during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur U21 and Sunderland U21 at White Hart Lane on April 11, 2016 in London, England.

One player who will be hoping to do just that is Tom Beadling. The Australian youth international headed to Dunfermline Athletic of the Scottish Championship in January on loan until the end of the season.

Since his move to Scotland, he has shown some great form for The Pars. Working under former Sunderland midfielder Allan Johnston he has shown a new sign of his game north of the border.

The 22-year-old, who is best known as a central defender, has adapted to playing in what is often an attacking midfield role with the Scottish side.

When he made the move to Dunfermline, the Chronicle reported this was the end of his Sunderland career, with his contract expiring in the summer.

(13 May 1998: Allan Johnston of Sunderland gets away from Paul Devlin of Sheffield United during the Nationwide League Divison One play-off at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, England. Sunderland won the match 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

But given he has performed well and added an extra string to his bow, Sunderland must surely consider keeping him on for at least one more year.

Cost-cutting is expected at the Stadium of Light this summer, but the 22-year-old’s salary is unlikely to be a major burden on affairs on Wearside.

Sunderland could have a very useful player on their hands for League One if the were to keep Beadling on past the summer. But if not, he will undoubtedly have suitors after his good form in Scotland.

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