Simon Bird’s piece also highlights that a £50m budget would be made available to Bruce next summer if we stay up, but focuses on the fact we have 20 players set to be out of contract between now and the summer of 2021.
Ki, Fernandez, Darlow, Manquillo and Sterry are all out of contract next summer, while the club are also set for talks with several senior players whose current deals expire in 2021.
The Mirror state that Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Ritchie and DeAndre Yedlin are due for contract talks, but claim that the futures of all four remain a ‘major headache’ for Steve Bruce, with Mike Ashley believing there is a ‘peak time to sell players before they lose value’.
While this should not apply to the likes of Isaac Hayden – who turned 24 this year – the piece suggests Ashley is tempted to cash in on Ritchie (29) and Shelvey (27) while they’re worth ‘big bucks’.
I could understand us selling Shelvey if he continued to be behind Longstaff and Hayden in the pecking order – he could fetch a decent fee and is one of our top earners on £80,000 p/w – but denying Ritchie a new deal and cashing in before he turns 30 would be naive.
He may have his limitations, but his energy, work rate and experience seems to have a huge impact upon this group of players, with him reinventing himself at this level following his switch to left wing-back.