SUNDERLAND yesterday secured the long-term futures of 11 potential first-team stars.
And another expected, if rather more expensive summer purchase, Wolves’ striker Steven Fletcher, learned that while his club do want him to stay they acknowledge a serious offer would see them lose their top goalscorer.
Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill gave the green light for a full team of youngsters to be given improved contracts, a clear indication that youth will be given their opportunity at Sunderland over the next few years.
Goalkeeper Ben Wilson, along with defenders Louis Laing, Blair Adams, Liam Marrs and Jordan Watson, plus midfielders Roarie Deacon, James Armstrong and Adam Reed, will all be given time and a genuine opportunity to make a breakthrough at the Stadium of Light.
Academy players Connor Oliver and Anthony Callaghan, who are both defenders, and striker Jordan Laidler, were also given their first professional contracts.
The older players, such as Laing, 19, and former Arsenal professional Deacon, 20, could be put out on loan for most of next season, as O’Neill has never been a manager willing to give young players a game before he considered them 100 per cent ready.
As for Fletcher, new Wolves boss Stale Solbakken broke his silence on the matter yesterday by admitting that it would be hard for the relegated club to hold on to the £10million-rated Scot when a bid is eventually offered to the Midlands club.
Wolves have both publicly and privately been insistent that they did not need to sell.
But Norwegian Solbakken, who took over the manager’s role in May after Wolves went down, didn’t try to hide from the fact that a Championship side would find it all-but impossible to stop one of their players moving back to the Premier League.
He said: “Fletcher is an experienced player who we want to continue having here. But everyone knows that in football money talks, so I can’t promise anything.
“They (Fletcher and Irish international Kevin Doyle) are players of great value for us and at this moment in time they’re Wolves players - and I hope they will be at the start of the season.”
Wolves are still to receive any bid for Fletcher, and Solbakken added: “It’s one thing what we’ve been told and one thing what’s actually on the table.
“There are no offers at the moment.
“If there are key players who we rely on here that for one reason or another leave the club, we must have very good players coming in to fill their roles.”
One player not Wearside-bound is Grant Holt who performed a U-turn and agreed a new three-year deal at Norwich City.
The 31-year-old Canaries top scorer from last season handed in a shock transfer request when Paul Lambert moved to become manager of Aston Villa.
Sunderland, as well as Villa, were heavily linked with the striker, who enjoyed a superb first season in English football’s top tier, but has chosen to stay at Norwich.
Sunderland have also added two players to their development squad after they impressed in trials. David Ferguson, a defender who was with Darlington, and midfielder Wade Joyce, formerly of Bury, agreed terms with the club.