Sunderland left the second-tier stunned last term as they launched a strong surge towards promotion upon their immediate return from League One under the tuition of Tony Mowbray.

They were subsequently defeated by eventual-winners Luton Town in the semi-finals of the play-offs, though that should take nothing away from Sunderland’s trajectory overall, and chiefly, the foundations that they have put in place for future success and sustainability in the wake of years that embodied anything but that.

From a hierarchal perspective this has been spearheaded by ambitious French businessman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, who has pumped a refreshing financial injection into the club’s playing squad amid conducting a progressive-minded philosophy pertaining to recruiting youthful, upcoming talent – which helped to establish their side as the youngest in the entire division last term, all the while finishing sixth.

Not bad going.

Sunderland are a big club with investment to match and they will doubtlessly harbor similar, if not even higher aspirations next time around, but while they have already been proactive with four summer signings that naturally reflect the Mackems’ newfound values, recent complications promise to test their resolve.

A cornerstone of their fruitful fortunes across the 2022/23 term was the presence of Amad Diallo, who arrived from Manchester United on loan and swiftly justified why not only Mowbray, but indeed his parent club had taken such a strong vote of faith, frequently conjuring up displays that earmarked him as a player far above the Championship.

Diallo finished the season with 14 goals and four assists across all competitions, and, of course, he would be more than welcome back at the Stadium of Light ahead of another imminent loan switch, but Sunderland are now set to face competition from Burnley and Sheffield United, both of whom will present the Premier League opportunity that United will doubtlessly desire to afford the Ivorian attacker.

But he is not the only star turn who may not be at Sunderland next term, with interest emerging in Ross Stewart’s signature, too – and a key recent admission on his future from Mowbray means that the veteran manager must plan for life without the Scotsman in the event of a worst-case scenario.

What has Tony Mowbray said about Ross Stewart’s Sunderland future?

Tony Mowbray Resigned To Sunderland Exits

Stewart, who only has a year left on his current Sunderland deal, has been subjected to an array of speculation after scoring ten times from just 13 matches in an injury-laden season, with Luton and Stoke City reportedly among those in admiration of his services.

And, when quizzed about the striker’s latest contractual situation by The Northern Echo on Wednesday, Mowbray explained that Sunderland are no closer to agreeing fresh terms following months of negotiations as a big ultimatum on his future awaits

“I don’t know to be honest,” explained Mowbray.

“I don’t think there’s any change otherwise it would have been news and would have been out there. I don’t sit across the table with Ross or his agent and discuss that sort of thing.

“All I know is we could do with him. He’s an exceptionally good player in this league and he’s shown that.

Tony Mowbray Resigned To Sunderland Exits

“Even though he hasn’t played many games in this league, his goals per game is quite incredible and I know how influential he is in our dressing room even though he’s not fit and available.

“In an ideal world Ross signs a new contract and the team looks so much stronger.

“If it can’t be done for whatever reason, I understand that. As I keep saying to them, I was a footballer for 18 years and over 20 years from leaving school.

“I’ve been there, seen it and know what it’s like, especially when you get to a certain age when you have a family and responsibilities. If you have opportunities then I understand where Ross is sitting.

“Let’s wait and see how it unfolds over the next few months.”

Indeed, the goals-to-games ratio that Mowbray alludes to is what truly marks Stewart as one of the second-tier’s most potent frontmen, and he averaged a goal every 104 minutes last term.

As such, one can only imagine the havoc that the 26-year-old would have no doubt inflicted upon the division – and just what that could have meant for Sunderland, too – had he not sustained respective serious hamstring and achilles injures, which saw him miss 36 league games, but 10 goals in that time is mightily impressive and it is no surprise to see suitors circling.

And as a result of that and the current contractual complications, Sunderland must ensure they have a potential replacement lined up, which, with ambition and expenditure, could come in the form of Bournemouth’s Kieffer Moore.

Bournemouth appoint Andoni Iraola as new head coach

Would Bournemouth’s Kieffer Moore be a good potential Ross Stewart replacement at Sunderland?

Standing at 6’2, one of Stewart’s leading attributes is his aerial presence, which saw him score seven headed goals in Sunderland’s promotion-winning third-tier campaign.

If he does indeed depart, Mowbray will need continuity in terms of how he utilizes his strikers, and Moore represents just that, as three of his four Premier League goals for Bournemouth have come with his head.

Three inches taller than his potential predecessor, it is interesting to note that 33% of Moore’s total 43 Championship goals across spells with Barnsley, Wigan Athletic, Cardiff City and the Cherries have been headed ones, and the same aerial prowess has been translated to the International stage when representing Wales, too.

With Moore’s stature, seemingly-synonymous perceptions can be formed, and while he physically represents the embodiments of an archetypal target man, his all-round footballing arsenal beholds so many more facets.

His true rise to prominence came during a 20-goal haul for Cardiff in the 2020/21 campaign in which he spearheaded an unlikely late play-off push alongside former Bournemouth playmaker Harry Wilson, and it was in that season where Moore displayed everything he has to offer as a footballer, with his first touch, link-up play and deceptively quick speed in and out-of-possession all being notable parts of his weaponry.

Despite the technical qualities, his hold-up attributes are vital too, and they can play a big part in creating opportunities and bringing other players into the game.

Bournemouth appoint Andoni Iraola as new head coach

But, owing to injuries with the Bluebirds in his second and final season, and then an unsurprising inability to break into Bournemouth’s side following promotion to the top-flight, he has failed to meet the same dizzying heights since and could be one of a number of players to leave the South Coast this summer amid Andoni Iraola’s revolution.

It does not look like he will be a part of the Spaniard’s plans next season given the ambition that Bournemouth are showing in the transfer market, so, all things considered, it is likely that they would be willing to part ways with the forward should a respectable offer arrive – one which Sunderland should be weighing up following the continued uncertainty of Stewart’s future.