Kristjaan Speakman: Sunderland to iron out season aims at winter break

·3-min read
Sunderland Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.
Sunderland Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.

SUNDERLAND’S Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman says the club will evaluate the aims for the season when the Championship pauses for the World Cup break in November.

The Black Cats have made a promising start to the campaign sitting fifth in the table.

Whilst it has been a strong start to the season, they have had to endure the process of a change in management after Alex Neil departed the Stadium of Light to take over at Stoke City. Tony Mowbray has taken the helm as head coach.

There is an ambition within the club to make the climb back to the top flight of the Premier League but following their recent promotion from League One, Sunderland are not heaping the pressure on themselves to achieve back-to-back promotions this season.

With that in mind, they will assess their current trajectory when national sides will head off to Qatar during November and December with domestic sides having just over a month away from games.

When quizzed by The Northern Echo over what the team’s objectives are since Mowbray’s appointment, Speakman responded: “We are an ambitious football club and when that question always comes up, there is a danger that you overpitch it or underpitch it. We’ve got to be able to adapt to this league and I don’t think we’ve had that period.

“Certainly when we get to the World Cup break, I think that will be a really good point for us to start assessing and looking at how those players have done. But once we have adapted, we just want to progress.

“You are constantly reviewing and evaluating that as you are going through. We’re not going to sit here and say we are playing one game at a time and sit back in May and go ‘how did we do?’ We’re going to constantly do that.

“There will be review periods to see how we’ve gone after the first 20 or so games. We will then be planning for the January window and before you know it, it will be the end of the season and we will be looking at the summer window so it’s just evolving what is going on.”

By the end of the season, Sunderland will have been away from the top flight for six years after their relegation to the Championship in 2017. The club suffered back-to-back relegations dropping into League One the following season.

The Black Cats young squad are not expected to be one of the Championship’s big hitters this season but, on the flip side, are not expected to be embroiled in a relegation dogfight. However, there is plenty of time left in the season and no one is getting ahead of themselves within the club.

While there is no definitive objective for the club at this moment in time, they are not prepared to undersell themselves and retain lofty ambitions of getting back to the big time. Speakman continued: “We’re all aspirational.”

“Tony hasn’t joined Sunderland to come and win the odd game and plod on through. We are not running a football club for that but we aren’t in a situation where we are in that ‘win at all costs, one or two spot’. But we do want to be in that spot at some point.

“I think that is where we want to be. We understand that to get there, we have got to work through some stages and like I said we’ve got no ceiling and we want to progress as quickly as we can but it’s going to be a sensible progression.”

Sunderland will be hopeful of seeing Dennis Cirkin return to action after the international break. The defender suffered a hamstring injury that ruled him out of their recent games against Reading and Watford.

However, there is an expectation that he will be available for their home game against Preston North End once the international break concludes.