SUNDERLAND will continue to hold contract talks with Jack Clarke in the second half of the season, with Kristjaan Speakman adamant the club’s financial model is not dependent on selling one of their big-name players.

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

However, Sunderland’s executive team have been unable to reach an agreement with Clarke and his representatives, fuelling speculation linking the club’s leading scorer with a move away from Wearside.

Clarke was linked with West Ham, Brentford and Burnley during last month’s transfer window, with Sunderland rejecting a formal offer from Lazio, and there is a good chance he will be the subject of bids in the summer.

The Black Cats will continue to attempt to achieve a contract breakthrough before then, with Speakman insisting the club have not given up hope of agreeing a new deal.

“I don’t think it (contract talks) ever runs its course,” said the Black Cats sporting director. “There are always ongoing conversations. I think at the minute, everyone is really comfortable with where it sits, and those conversations will continue.

“There’s loads of things that can affect that as you go through, but we’ve always had really open dialogue with players and their agents. We talked a lot about Ross Stewart and there was never a case of on, off, on, off. It was just ongoing, and I just think that's the way it’s done in the modern game.”

Sunderland’s recruitment model has changed markedly in the last few years, with a focus on the purchase and development of young players with a high sell-on value.


So far, the only senior player the new regime have sold for any significant income is Stewart, but Clarke, Anthony Patterson, Dan Ballard and Dan Neil could all attract outside interest this summer.

The club’s financial model is at least partly premised on selling to reinvest, but Speakman insists it is not inevitable that one of the club’s star players will be moving on at the end of this season.

“I think it’s a blend,” he said. “If you were able to keep our group and keep moving it forward, you could argue that you don't need to sell a player and you can then go and get promoted. I think we're very close to that with the group that we've got.

“Ultimately, the club will move at a certain pace and the players will move at a pace. With the players it can be quite quick, a centre-forward for example or a wide player could be at your club, score ten goals and all of a sudden they're in demand and have the opportunity to move much quicker than the club can - because we have to move by seasons and players can move by windows, if that makes sense.

“I don't see any issue with trading being part of being successful, I think everyone is doing that. Ultimately, we'll just try to make the right decision by the club every time those key questions come up.”

At some stage, however, Speakman accepts that Clarke’s situation will come to a head if the current contractual impasse continues. Understandably, Sunderland do not want to leave themselves in a situation where the winger’s value starts to decrease because the end of his contract is approaching, so there will eventually be a decision to be made if a new deal is not forthcoming.

“Every player has their own journey,” said Speakman. “I don't think there's ever a necessity to sell a player or for a player to move - it's just trying to find the right sweet spot for everybody.

“I don't think it's a situation where Jack would have to move in the summer, but eventually if you don't sign a new contract it starts to run down and eventually you're 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.”