SUNDERLAND face a battle to hold on to their brightest young talents this summer, with the club’s hierarchy anticipating Premier League interest in a quartet of stars.

The Black Cats’ defeat to Luton Town in the play-off semi-finals means the recruitment team headed by sporting director Kristjaan Speakman now know they are preparing for another season in the Championship.

However, while there will be incoming transfer deals this summer, with Birmingham City youngster Jobe Bellingham set to be the first through the door, the biggest battles are likely to relate to players currently on the books at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland are in a vulnerable position when it comes to both Ross Stewart and Patrick Roberts, with the pair both about to head into the final year of their current contracts. While Stewart’s long-term Achilles injury means it is unlikely that potential suitors will make a move for the striker until they have been able to gauge his fitness and wellbeing in pre-season, Roberts is set to attract more immediate interest once the transfer window officially reopens.

The 26-year-old was one of the attacking stars of Sunderland’s season, scoring five goals and claiming seven assists, and Premier League clubs are known to have been taking a keen interest in his performances in the second half of the season.

On the opposite side of Sunderland’s attack, Jack Clarke has also been attracting considerable attention, with Brentford understood to be lining up a potential move for his services.


The Black Cats are in a better contractual position when it comes to Clarke as his current deal is not due to expire until the summer of 2026. However, with finances limited after just one season back in the Championship, Sunderland’s ownership group could find it hard to reject a reasonable offer if Brentford opt to firm up their interest this summer.

The same is true when it comes to Anthony Patterson and Dan Neil, players Sunderland would ideally like to keep, but who are also attracting top-flight attention.

Leicester City and Wolves have been linked with Patterson - the former are understood to be interested in a potential swap deal involving their own goalkeeper, Daniel Iversen, that would not be dependent on them remaining in the Premier League – while Leicester and Crystal Palace have been touted as potential destinations for Neil.

Neither of the homegrown academy players will be pushing for a move away from Wearside this summer, but as with Clarke, it remains to be seen whether Sunderland are able to reject formal offers if they arrive once the transfer window reopens.

Tony Mowbray is aware of the potential for his current squad to break up – the Black Cats have already waved goodbye to loanees Amad Diallo and Joe Gelhardt and look increasingly unlikely to take up the option of signing Edouard Michut on a permanent basis – and highlighted the need to hold on as many talented players as possible in the immediate aftermath of his side’s play-off defeat to Luton.

“The club has to build now, and they have to keep their best players,” said Mowbray, during his post-match press conference at Kenilworth Road. “We have to keep growing. That’s football. We have to keep building and improving if we want to be a force.

“I can reel off a list of the teams that are going to be hoping to win promotion from the Championship next season – Southampton are going to be massively strong, and then if it’s Leicester, Leeds or Everton, what about them.”