There isn't a great deal for Sunderland supporters to be enthused by heading into the final day of the season with nothing to play for against Sheffield Wednesday after an abject second half to the season - but it could be a game of significance in relation to Jack Clarke and whether it will be his final game in a red and white shirt.

Clarke added the club's player of the year award to his recent fans' player of the year accolade this week as the winger continues to bask in a season of personal highlights, even if Sunderland's campaign has petered out at an alarming rate in 2024. Sunderland head into their final game of the season with little to play for despite what has been a monumental season for the former Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur winger.

Clarke has scored 15 times in the Championship this season, Sunderland's leading goal scorer by some margin and, at times, Sunderland's only source of goals. Clarke's impact had the club competing for a top six spot in the Championship table throughout the first half of the season before a managerial change saw about a significant decline in results, a trend which has continued under interim head coach Mike Dodds. 


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With Sunderland destined for a bottom half finish in the league table, attention will soon turn towards the summer and the interest which will undoubtedly come surrounding their talisman, Clarke. Sunderland have rejected substantial approaches from clubs in each of the last two transfer windows with Burnley and Serie A side Lazio having seen offers rebuffed over the course of the last 12-months, with several other potential suitors monitoring Clarke's situation at the Stadium of Light.

It's widely accepted Sunderland will face a struggle to keep hold of the 23-year-old this summer, having failed to mount a promotion challenge themselves, despite the winger having two-years remaining on his current deal.

We Are Sunderland: Jack Clarke be set to make his final appearance for Sunderland against Sheffield Wednesday with transfer speculation expected to ramp upJack Clarke be set to make his final appearance for Sunderland against Sheffield Wednesday with transfer speculation expected to ramp up (Image: Ian Horrocks)

Clarke's agent, former Republic of Ireland international Ian Harte, recently detailed how they were open to agreeing a new deal last summer but were unable to reach an agreement with the club and has left the door open to a potential move this summer.

But despite the anticipation of this being Clarke's final game for Sunderland when they face Sheffield Wednesday, interim head coach Dodds does not believe his exit is as set in stone as it may seem during the off-season. 

"I don’t really read the stuff online so I don’t really know what the narrative is on the Jack Clarke situation. I’ll be really intrigued because he’s still got a long period on his contract – I know there was a lot of interest last summer which the club didn’t feel was anywhere near their valuation, so it’ll be a really interesting summer," Dodds explained.

"I’m not going to get drawn into Jack or the football club and what the football club wants and what Jack wants. But I don’t feel it’s as completely forgone, in that sense, in terms of Jack is just going to leave the football club. He has a length on his contract still and the club have demonstrated they won’t be letting anyone go for cheap, so there will be some toing-and-froing, I’m sure, if there are a number of clubs interested."




Clarke's impact since joining the club on loan from Tottenham for the second half of the club's promotion season in League One is, arguably, the biggest advocation of the club's recruitment policy when it comes to signing young players with potential who they can develop and repackage to produce greater value. Having drifted in and out of that League One team under former head coach Alex Neil, including being named on the bench for the play-off final win over Wycombe Wanderers, Clarke agreed a permanent switch to Wearside that summer and hasn't looked back since.

Last season saw Clarke produce 20 goals and assists combined as Sunderland reached the Championship play-offs but, remarkably, was often overlooked in favour of Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo and Ross Stewart when it came to his importance in the team. 

Clarke has continued his development this season, however, and his ascendency has stood out immeasurably in the Sunderland squad as he continues to progress towards the Premier League having contributed 19 goals and assists combined, despite missing six weeks with an ankle ligament injury.

We Are Sunderland: Amad Diallo was a huge success when on loan with Sunderland from Manchester UnitedAmad Diallo was a huge success when on loan with Sunderland from Manchester United (Image: PA)

But despite Clarke's rise over the course of the last two seasons on Wearside, Dodds believes there remains plenty for the winger to work on if he is to achieve that Premier League goal with, or without, Sunderland.

"Jack would be a positive of the recruitment model," said Dodds. "He came in on loan initially and took a while to settle but towards the back end of the League One season he was very good and then we got to the summer and Jack didn’t come in immediately, I think he joined us halfway through the trip to Portugal – it wasn’t like he came in straight away. But he’s gone from strength-to-strength.

"He’s got huge potential. He’s still a young man. There’s still a lot he needs to work on and there’s still a huge amount of his game he needs to be better at, in particular if we’re talking about him moving on and going to the Premier League. That’s not just one step up, for me the Premier League is like five steps up. It’s the best league in the world. So, there is still a huge amount he needs to improve and get better at.

"Jack is a good kid," he continued. "He’s a very unique character, he moans about absolutely everything but you can live with the moaning if he produces the numbers he’s produced. So it will be an interesting summer but, in my personal opinion, I don’t think the conclusion is just that Jack is going to leave the football club, because he’s got a lengthy contract and the club have demonstrated they’re not going to let players go for anything less than they feel is value."