Sunderland fans will be confident of shooting up the Championship table after the World Cup break as star striker Ross Stewart should be back available after recovering from injury, but the Black Cats’ hopes of keeping him in the long term have seemingly suffered a blow.
Journalist Alan Nixon has suggested on Twitter that an agreement between Stewart and Sunderland for a new contract is not close, which represents a big blow to Mowbray ahead of the January window.
“Nothing close,” he tweeted.
His contract with the northeast side is currently set to expire in June 2023, although the Championship side do have the option to extend it by another 12 months.
However, they are understandably keen to tie him down to a longer deal in order to ward off any potential suitors in January and ensure that he doesn’t leave for a minimal fee in the near future.
Chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus confirmed this at a recent meeting with fans, saying: “We are having ongoing conversations and we’re all hopeful that it will lead to a successful outcome.”
Director Kristjaan Speakman also suggested it during the summer after Stewart played a big part in Sunderland returning to the second tier.
He said: “Ross has had an incredible season. So, for us, we’re always trying to protect players like that who have performed so well. And naturally, you want to try and reward players.”
Will Stewart sign a new deal?
The Scotland international started the new season in superb form for the Black Cats, contributing five goals and three assists in just seven appearances, earning an incredible 7.81 rating from WhoScored for his performances.
This ranks him comfortably as the top performer in Tony Mowbray’s side so far this campaign, so it is clear that he has been a big miss for Sunderland, as they have dropped down the table in his absence.
Stewart is not only the top scorer in the squad, despite playing far fewer than most, but he has also averaged more shots per game and more aerials won per game than any other player, which emphasises how important he is to the way Sunderland play.
After such a strong start to the 2022/23 term, on the back of an electric season in League One to fire Sunderland to promotion, it was perhaps always likely that the 26-year-old would attract interest from elsewhere.
Rangers, in particular, were heavily linked with Stewart over the summer, and Mowbray may well be concerned that his time at the Stadium of Light could soon be coming to an end.
If the star striker cannot be tied down to a new deal at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland may well be forced to cash in, which would do their chances of flying up the table serious harm.