SUNDERLAND are in “ongoing” talks with Dan Neil over a new contract at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats achieved one notable contract resolution this week, with Chris Rigg having signed his first professional deal with the club, and Kristjaan Speakman is hoping another breakthrough could be imminent.

Like Jack Clarke, whose own contract talks are understood to have hit an impasse, Neil has entered the final two years of his existing deal.

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Ideally, Sunderland would like to get the homegrown midfielder tied down to a longer-term agreement, with Speakman admitting the ongoing talks with Neil and his representatives are a key priority.

“We've always tried to retain the top talent,” said Sunderland’s sporting director, when asked directly about Neil. “Those conversations are ongoing for numbers of players.

“I think we try to keep a really, really close contact with the agents of all the players to know how they're feeling, where they feel they are at the minute, what they think is the next step for them, how comfortable are they with the environment, what can we do to chop and change things here to make sure they're really, really comfortable.

“And naturally, if anyone's got a contract they're starting to get towards the conclusion of, then we're always really active on that front.”

Clarke and Neil are two of the Sunderland players that could well attract outside interest this summer, along with the likes of Anthony Patterson, Dan Ballard, Trai Hume and Jobe Bellingham.


The Black Cats are understood to have turned down at least one formal offer for Bellingham from Brentford, while Southampton retain a strong interest in Clarke.

Speakman admits he can offer no guarantees on Sunderland’s star players, but points to the club’s record of rejecting bids for some of their star performers as proof that they will only sell if they feel an offer is impossible to turn down.

Sunderland sporting director Kristjaan SpeakmanSunderland sporting director Kristjaan Speakman (Image: The Northern Echo)

“I think it's really difficult to predict what will happen through the summer,” he said. “But I think all I can say on the player retention piece is that we've had a really strong record on that.

“I can't comment on the press stuff about specific names because I don't really accept it.  I don't really have too much knowledge of what's out there, but he's (Bellingham) just one of a number of talented players we've got, and the backhanded compliment of having a talented group is there's going to be constant interest.

“As I've said before, I'd much rather get loads of interest in our talented players than be struggling to name talented players in our group. So, I don't want to go into the individual ins and outs because those things always can chop and change. But I can reiterate our strategy, and our intent is to retain our top talent.”