It’s been a successful season for the Black Cats but one that promised so much more than just the playoffs.
Aspirations of a top two finish were quickly curtailed when inconsistency crept into the side under Lee Johnson, which ultimately cost the former Bristol City and Barnsley boss his job.
Alex Neil then came in and steadied the ship and has turned Sunderland into one of the form teams in the division, losing just one of his 15 games in charge on Wearside.
After finishing fifth with 84 points, Sunderland will take on Sheffield Wednesday for a place in the Championship but regardless of whether Sunderland gain promotion or not, there are still matters that need resolving.
Here, we take a look at two changes Sunderland could make this summer.
Relying less on loan players
Sunderland have relied heavily on the loan market this season, with six players coming through the door temporarily.
Those players include Callum Doyle, Ron-Thorben Hoffman, Frederik Alves, Leon Dajaku, Jack Clarke and Nathan Broadhead. Alves returned to West Ham in January but it’s still a large percentage of their squad that will return to their parent clubs in the summer.
It gives Sunderland plenty of recruitment to do in January as they look to replace those players who have been on loan this season, and with the likes of Doyle and Broadhead having a big impact, they are big shoes that need filling.
So, relying less on loan players is a must for Sunderland as this will also ensure the club create sellable assets to make them more sustainable, giving them something to reinvest in their side should they sell a player.
Finding a replacement for Ross Stewart
Stewart has been superb for Sunderland this season and is a huge reason to why they are competing for promotion in the playoffs.
The Scotsman is the Black Cats top scorer with 24 goals this season and has been an important focal point for the side. However, that good form comes at a price.
There are plenty of suitors looking to snap up Stewart as a result of his good form, with Norwich and Swansea registering interest previously. Rangers have also registered an interest, meaning the likelihood of Stewart leaving in the summer is high.
The club were looking to offer fresh terms to their talisman, but with interest growing and a contract yet to be agreed with Stewart, finding a replacement for their top scorer will be important for Alex Neil for next season.