Sunderland are approaching a really pivotal few weeks in their history.
The Black Cats have enjoyed a wonderful campaign under Lee Johnson in which the club have propelled themselves from a mid-table position to the upper echelons of League One.
However the last few weeks has put their entire campaign in jeopardy.
Johnson’s side are currently on a six-match winless run which has seen the club drop from the heart of the automatic promotion race to the middle of a play-off push.
While it would take something remarkable for Sunderland to drop out of the top six, history tells us that the play-offs are far from the most certain route towards promotion.
If the Black Cats were to miss out on a spot in the Championship there would be a real feeling that the Wearsiders had missed a huge opportunity that was firmly in their grasp.
Not only that, but it could also dictate the future of some of their star players.
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Sunderland have a large number of players coming to the end of their contracts this summer with decisions likely to be made once it’s been confirmed what division they’ll be playing in next term.
At the top of that list of decisions is Charlie Wyke.
Despite enduring a mixed couple of seasons, the 28-year-old has been in wonderful form so far this term for Lee Johnson’s side.
A brace against Accrington Stanley on Saturday took his tally for the season to 30 goals – a remarkable landmark for a striker at any level of the game.
Reports from Football League World last month suggested that Wyke was attracting the interest of Championship club Middlesbrough, something that is hardly a surprise given his goalscoring record this term.
In truth, it’s likely that more clubs from the second tier will come knocking if Sunderland do miss out on promotion.
Wyke is clearly enjoying his football at the Stadium Of Light but there’s no escaping the fact that his stock is at an all-time high after such an impressive season for Sunderland.
If the club were stuck in League One for another season then it would take a tremendous show of loyalty to stay at the club next season rather than taking the chance of proving himself at a higher level.
Sunderland can’t afford to lose a striker who has just contributed 30 goals to a campaign, but unfortunately for them the only way that I can see them retaining control of the situation is to secure promotion through the play-offs – an objective that is far from certain to be completed.