Gutted boss of Portsmouth rival Sunderland makes frank admission after play-off failure against Lincoln

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Sunderland boss Lee Johnson admitted he’ll have to operate with a ‘slightly reduced budget’ as the Black Cats prepare for a fourth season in League One.

And that could see the Wearsiders – who lost their play-off semi-final against Lincoln 3-2 on aggregate – being priced out of keeping some of their out-of-contract players.

More than a dozen of Sunderland’s first-team squad are eligible to leave for nothing from next month, including top-scorer Charlie Wkye, Aiden McGeady, Luke O’Nien, Jordan Willis and Max Power.

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It’s a similar situation to the one Pompey head coach Danny Cowley saw himself faced with immediately after the Blues’ own promotion hopes were ended on the final day of the season against Accrington.

It’s since emerged that Craig MacGillivray and Tom Naylor are about to follow suit, while the futures of Jack Whatmough, Ryan Williams and Ben Close remain up in the air.

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And that’s a reality Johnson is now faced with at Sunderland as the Black Cats boss counts the cost of his side’s failed play-off bid.

Sunderland boss Lee Johnson.  Picture: Stu Forster/Getty ImagesSunderland boss Lee Johnson.  Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Sunderland boss Lee Johnson. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

He told ChronicleLive: ‘There’s going to be a natural evolution of the squad now.

‘Some players will have played their last game there today (Saturday) for various reasons.

‘Some we may want to keep but can’t afford to, some we might not want and will want to move on, and others we might want to retain and will give them our best offer.

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‘It’s a sad day because you do build a rapport with these players.’

He added: ‘We will sit down and reflect on the season, and have some really honest conversations and be brutally honest about what went well and what didn’t go well.

‘There’ll be changes. It’s inevitable there’ll be changes, and the test will be whether we can make those changes for the better.

‘Football’s not in a great place, and that could work for us or it could work against us.

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‘Inevitably, we’ll be judged by the quality of our recruitment in the summer.

‘I think our recruitment becomes the difference, to be honest with you.

‘That is the summer challenge – to make sure, potentially on a slightly reduced budget, that we actually recruit very well.’