TONY Mowbray says he'd "understand" if Sunderland and Ross Stewart ultimately have to accept defeat in their efforts to agree a new deal and the striker moves on.

Stewart is moving into the last 12 months of his contract at the Stadium of Light and with negotiations that have been ongoing for months continuing, Mowbray remains desperately hopeful that his star striker will extend his stay on Wearside.

But as things stand, the two parties are no closer to reaching an agreement and unless that changes, Sunderland have a big decision to make this summer, with Stoke City, managed by former boss Alex Neil, and Premier League newcomers Luton Town both  eyeing up a move for the striker.

"I don't know to be honest," said Mowbray, when quizzed on Stewart's situation.

"I don't think there's any change otherwise it would have been news and would have been out there. I don't sit across the table with Ross or his agent and discuss that sort of thing.

"All I know is we could do with him. He's an exceptionally good player in this league and he's shown that. Even though he hasn't played many games in this league, his goals per game is quite incredible and I know how influential he is in our dressing room even though he's not fit and available."


Despite an injury-ravaged season, Stewart still underlined his class for Sunderland last term, scoring 10 goals in just 13 Championship outings. Stewart's form for the Black Cats has led to him becoming one of the most sought-after strikers in the second tier and having just turned 27, he'll feel his best years are still ahead of him. And while Mowbray doesn't want to lose Stewart, he says he'd understand if, for whatever reason, Stewart decided to pursue another opportunity elsewhere.

Mowbray said: "In an ideal world Ross signs a new contract and the team looks so much stronger.

"If it can't be done for whatever reason, I understand that. As I keep saying to them, I was a footballer for 18 years and over 20 years from leaving school.

"I've been there, seen it and know what it's like, especially when you get to a certain age when you have a family and responsibilities. If you have opportunities then I understand where Ross is sitting. Let's wait and see how it unfolds over the next few months."