Sunderland have five players who are approaching the final six months of their contracts at the Stadium of Light. We should see an upswing in form from them right?
Darron Gibson has been speaking to the Sunderland Echo this morning about his contract situation at the Stadium of Light. The central midfielder arrived in January on an 18-month deal which expires at the end of the season.
The ex-Everton man has only featured in sixty-percent of the Black Cats fixtures since he was signed by David Moyes. Injuries and a lack of fitness and form have restricted his time on the pitch but he has played a key part in Chris Coleman's line-ups in recent games.
But he's not the only one who will be playing for a new deal as the second half of the Championship season gets underway. John O'Shea, Mika Domingues, Billy Jones and Marc Wilson are the other four who may be looking for new clubs come the end of the campaign.
O'Shea is surely already considering retirement. The Republic of Ireland international will be 37 next year and this season is most likely his swansong. Presumably the defender, who will have been at Sunderland for seven years come the summer, will be bidding to land a coaching gig somewhere.
Portuguese 'keeper Mika is a curious case considering the effort which went into signing him. Finally arriving following an appeal to FIFA after a deadline day mix up in 2016, the 26-year-old has yet to make a first team appearance and has barely even made the bench. Surely he will return whence he came next summer and truth be told, he will be afforded little opportunity to stake a claim for a new deal between now and the end of the season anyway.
Billy Jones has been a mainstay at right-back for Sunderland since he arrived in 2014. Never entirely convincing, the former West Brom man will be 31-years-old next summer and when asked last summer about his thoughts for the future, he appeared to be already resigned to the fact he may be leaving Wearside at the end of the season,
"I have a season left [on my contract] and when my time comes to an end at Sunderland, I want to be part of hopefully a promotion, I’ve got that one season to do that"
As for Marc Wilson - who knows. The 31-year-old has only featured in nine Championship fixtures so far and is another who has endured issues with form and fitness. Saying that, he was at the heart of Chris Coleman's five-man back line at Wolves and presumably he offers the Black Cats boss the potential to utilise such a system going forward.
Certainly of the five who will be out of contract come the end of the campaign, the Republic of Ireland pairing of Gibson and Wilson certainly seem the most likely to be playing for a contract extension come the end of the season. With Sunderland battling to rid themselves of the threat of relegation, that can only be a good thing for two players we haven't seen the best of yet at the Stadium of Light.