Sunderland must battle and keep hold of 16-year old starlet Sam Greenwood.
For a club looking to rebuild in a sustainable manner, the focus must be on retaining their youth talents. Losing Greenwood would send the wrong message to both other clubs and the remaining youth players.
Greenwood has made three appearances for England’s Under 16 side. Domestically, he played a role in 12 goals in his 15 appearances for Sunderland’s Under 18s last season.
However, he has turned down Sunderland’s initial offer of a professional contract.
The concern for Sunderland is if Greenwood goes, others will follow. Fellow forwards Joel Asoro and Josh Maja, both 19 years old, have stalled on contract extensions.
If the club fails to make a stand to these players, a youth exodus could well be on the cards. Such a drain on the young talent would leave the club more reliant on expensive signings.
It would also severely inhibit their ability to cultivate the rest of their youth academy to their full potential.
Sunderland’s current state makes it difficult for the club to appeal to players, including their own youth. The prospect of joining a Bundesliga club would be tempting for young players in the Premier League, let alone League One.
If Jack Ross offers his young stars playing time and the club improve their offer, there might be hope.
Otherwise Sunderland will be forced to bear a devastating drain of talent.