Four ex-Sunderland stars that could return this summer

By Noah Worthy

This season’s Sunderland squad fell pitifully short of preseason expectations, and some may insist that it all went downhill following the dismissal of experienced manager  Tony Mowbray.

Kristjaan Speakman’s model aims to design a young squad from a low budget and resell the players further down their line of development for a profitable fee.

Everything that could have gone wrong with this model in one season, has.

Below, I explore the possibilities of bringing back some ex-Sunderland men for the 24/25 season, in search of some much-needed experience in the squad.

Vito Mannone – LOSC Lille

Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone on the bench. Credit: Alamy

Every Sunderland fan remembers that night at Old Trafford in early 2014 where Mannone let the city ‘Dare to Dream’, and send his club to Wembley with a place in the Capital One Cup Final.

Sunderland are currently without an experienced shot-stopper in their goalkeeper room, consisting of Anthony Patterson (24), Nathan Bishop (24), Alex Bass (26) and Matthew Young (17), and they will be aiming to seek exactly that in the upcoming summer transfer window.

A reunion for Vito Mannone and Sunderland could prove to be pivotal for promising Anthony Patterson’s and star boy Matt Young’s development, whilst also providing some serious competition for the number 1 spot.

With the Italian still contracted to Top 4 Ligue 1 side Lille, there provides evidence that he can present the inexperienced goalkeeper room with both mentoring and competition.

Dion Sanderson – Birmingham City

Sunderland’s Amad Diallo (left) and Birmingham City’s Dion Sanderson in action during the Sky Bet Championship match at St. Andrew’s, Birmingham. Credit: Alamy

Sanderson, a former Sunderland loanee and current Birmingham City captain, with 104 Championship appearances, could prove key to solidifying the defences of the Championship side that were devastated by injury in the 23/24 season.

The Black Cats concluded the season with a -2 goal difference, and the lack of experience across the backline certainly proved costly to them.

With the Blues being relegated to EFL League One, Sanderson is likely to be looking for a move away from St. Andrews, and the Stadium of Light has all the aspects of a great landing spot for the central defender.

Sanderson was a favourite amongst the fans in his loan spell at the club in the 20/21 season, racking up 27 appearances and 1 goal, and was tipped to sign permanently the following season.

Jordan Henderson – Ajax

Jordan Henderson in action for Ajax. Credit: Alamy

Undoubtedly, Dan Neil has been one of the few bright sparks in a dull Sunderland team this year. If Neil was to reach half of the monumental heights that Jordan Henderson has, his career would be classed somewhat legendary.

What better for Neil’s development than to unite the two North East-born midfielders for their hometown club?

Sunderland may face a possible hurdle in Henderson’s wage demands, along with the fact that he is still contracted to Ajax until 2026, but reports suggest that the Dutch club are prepared to let him leave following another disastrous campaign.

Experience in the centre of the park is another must for Sunderland in this window after the club announced the departure of Captain Corry Evans. With the only recognised defensive-minded midfielders at the club being Dan Neil (22), Pierre Ekwah (22) and Jay Matete (23), reinforcements are essential in this department.

The signing of Henderson is unquestionably a long shot for the Black Cats, but it would most definitely inspire fans and give them some well-deserved satisfaction.

Ross Stewart – Southampton

Ross Stewart in action for Southampton. Credit: Alamy

The partnership of Sunderland and proven goal scorers certainly doesn’t come around often, and the absence of an out-and-out centre forward this season has been glaringly obvious, with four first-team strikers combining for three goals.

The last proven goal scorer to leave their mark on Sunderland and the Stadium of Light was Scottish target man Ross Stewart, who has found it difficult at times after joining the Saints in September of last year.

Stewart found himself in a strong position after the 21/22 season, with 29 goal contributions in 53 appearances, and a whole host of teams desperate for his signature, including Scottish giants Rangers and local rivals Middlesbrough.

Stewart has only made 4 Championship appearances this campaign due to destructive injury problems, and a short-term loan is presumably the next step for the Scot. With Sunderland looking for goals, and Stewart looking for a loan, surely the ‘Lochness Drogba’ is Northbound, although this could spark some controversy among Sunderland fans.