SUNDERLAND plan to open contract talks early with Connor Wickham and Vito Mannone in a bid to avoid the mistakes of the recent past.
The Black Cats stars are about to enter the final year of their contracts at the Stadium of Light.
And this time there will be no hanging about by the club when it comes to nailing down players who they see as part of Sunderland’s long-term future.
The Wearsiders allowed a host of players’ contracts to run down this summer and ended up losing out on much-valued Academy product Jack Colback as a result.
Fellow Bosman Seb Larsson, who eventually agreed a new three-year deal with the Black Cats, could also easily have left.
And Sunderland’s record Premier League appearance-maker, right-back Phil Bardsley, might have looked to extend his stay at the Stadium of Light had his contract been looked at earlier.
Instead, it was allowed to run down which all but guaranteed that the former Manchester United defender would move on a free transfer when other clubs came in with more tempting offers and longer contracts. Bardsley eventually opted to join Stoke.
It is the Colback situation, though, that has really hurt Sunderland.
The midfielder had been at Sunderland since he was eight years old and would have stayed had his contract situation been dealt with more ambitiously by the club last summer when it entered its final year.
Instead, Colback was offered only the most marginal increase on wages which were already hugely below that of many of his team-mates.
And that tactical negotiating mistake ultimately resulted in the player moving to arch rivals Newcastle United, with Sunderland losing out on a fee for a player they had invested many years in.
Black Cats chairman Ellis Short is determined that that situation will not be repeated and head coach Gus Poyet and new director of football Lee Congerton are in complete agreement with the American.
For that reason, Sunderland will look to open talks promptly with both Wickham and Mannone with a view to agreeing new long-term deals with the players as soon as possible.
Former Arsenal keeper Mannone, who was Sunderland’s Player of the Season last season, was only offered a two-year deal when he signed last summer.
Wickham, meanwhile, revived his reputation as one of the hottest young English prospects in the game with a five-goal burst at the tail-end of last season – his third campaign with the Black Cats.
Sunderland see both players as key members of the squad going forward and are determined not to allow the grass to grow under their feet this time.