Could Kieren Westwood be on his way out of the club this summer?
While talk continues around the public houses of Sunderland, no doubt leading to featuring in a newspaper as an 'exclusive' transfer story from a 'source' about which of the many strikers who have been linked to the club over the summer, there's also the fact that in this age of financial fair play where we have to make some cuts too.
Now some players are quite clearly safe such as Stephane Sessegnon, Simon Mignolet, John O'Shea, Wes Brown etc, but what of those on the fringe, or maybe not the fringe as such, but those who's starting spot is far from secure. Should they stay or should they go? We've passed some verdicts...
I like Gordon. I really do. The problem is, we just don't see enough of him, and now there's a convenient window to offload him and his sizeable wage. Martin O'Neill seems to be of the same opinion in that he rates Gordon, but as MON said last week; "He's very good, but we've got three international keepers, and two under contract"... I think he's off, but it's with the very best wishes wherever he ends up. Verdict: Leaving
I think most Sunderland fans have grown tired of Bardsley now. I'm not picking on him too much, he's perfectly adequate player for a mid-to-lower Premier League side, but if we have aspirations beyond ever being that, Bardsley, for all his effort, isn't good enough. There were strong rumours last summer he came close to leaving, and if they came back this year I think fans would be tempted. Unfortunately, he seems to be a favourite of whichever manager coems in, and O'Neill has selected him consistently. Verdict: Staying
Much like Bardsley, he's little more than a grafter. His off-the-field antics haven't endeared him particularly to anyone, but it's his performances on it which are much more perplexing. Performances range between exceptional, such as Manchester City at home, and awful like Fulham away. This is a massive year for Cattermole to prove himself to be something one way or another, and with him holding the captaincy, I think he stays. For now. Verdict: Staying
We had such huge expectations for the former Ipswich Town youngster, and perhaps they were slightly unjust when you look with hindsight. It's difficult to argue that Wickham has had a good season, but he is still very, very young, and his best years are miles ahead of him. Whilst he fits the physical mould of an "O'Neill Style Forward" he needs games, and confidence. A good summer and he stays, an indifferent one and he's off on loan. There's been little to suggest he'll have anything but the latter based on previous form. Verdict: Leaving (On Loan)
He may have found God on Wearside, but has he found happiness? Every season it appears Richardson has to find a new position, and there's been strong rumours about him leaving to join Reading this summer, which may be considered a step down, but it's near to his native London, and with him continually finding inner peace, might he be tempted to return? I don't know. It would take a hell of a fee for me to part with him. Having been given the last few games off to have surgery and gain fitness prior to next season, you have to think that's an indicator he's not going anywhere soon. Not long left on his contract though... Verdict: Staying
Vaughan hasn't played anywhere near as much as he'd have liked, and must be a little miffed when he see's Lee Cattermole come back the second he says he's fit, even if physically he looks off the pace. Vaughan is an ample fill in for any of our central midfielders, but he appears to be slipping towards competing for the third position with David Meyler as opposed to a starting berth. I think we could be tempted to offload one of them, and O'Neill hasn't made many noises about Vaughan in the way he has Meyler. Verdict: Leaving
Meyler as we just sort of said, finds himself in the same boat as Vaughan; third or fourth choice in the middle of the park. Perhaps what Meyler has over Vaughan though is age, height and more of a general acceptance of his position at the club. O'Neill has talked up Meyler in the past, and with nobody ever likely to pay us a decent fee, we might as well keep him. Verdict: Staying
Hmmmm, Titus. You've had your moments this season haven't you? They do stack up to him being the type of character we don't need or want at the club. As for on the pitch, he's been fine, little more or less. So when it comes down to that fourth or fifth defender role, who would you rather have? The trouble magnet Bramble, or the mild-mannered Matt Kilgallon? Both are about equal in terms of playing ability, so you'd have to side with Killa really here. Bramble could be one of the first names out the door, a process sped up if he's found guilty of dodgy off the field activities. Verdict: Leaving
It looked for a long time that Westwood might be one of the first out the door. Not playing, not wanting to play (see sniffle-gate for Manchester City at home), but now it appears that he'll be sticking around as competition for Simon Mignolet. Which in fairness, is about his level. I'm sure if someone came in with a ludicrous bid in the region of £2m then we'd snap their hands off, but until that unlikely day, Westwood is here to stay, hopefully with some renewed vigour. Verdict: Staying
A one that's tougher to call than first thought. Initially it would be an easy decision to say that Elmo, who hardly ever plays in fairness, would be out the door. Then later it emerges he's good mates with Stephane Sessegnon, and I really want us to do anything and everything possible to keep Sess happy. Elmohamady hasn't been fancied in the last few weeks after apparently being told he was going to get more games. That really should say it all for the Egyptian international. Verdict: Leaving
What's your verdict on the players listed above, and who else might you consider to have a fairly uncertain future at the club? Let us know in the comments section below!