Sunderland confirmed the appointment of ex-Birmingham chief Kristjaan Speakman in December 2020 and the Black Cats supremo has endured a rollercoaster of a time at the club so far.
He has overseen three transfer windows and one manager change, along with a failed play-off campaign last term in League One. Whilst Sunderland are yet to make their way back up to the Championship, the sporting director has had some success in his role.
One of Speakman’s first signings at the Stadium of Light has ended up being a dream deal as he signed Scottish striker Ross Stewart, who joined on a permanent deal from Ross County for a reported fee of £300k in January 2021.
At the time of the deal, then-Sunderland boss Lee Johnson said: “I think Ross is a player that will be great for us in the short term, but he can also develop and improve over the long term.”
The forward struggled for game time in the final five months of the 2020/21 campaign as he started three matches in League One and was brought off the bench a further ten times. Despite his lack of involvement, he averaged a solid SofaScore rating of 6.99 and scored three goals – a respectable return given his limited minutes on the pitch.
Johnson’s prediction came true this season, though, as he stepped up after Charlie Wyke’s departure and has made himself the figurehead of the attack. He has scored a whopping 22 goals in 35 League One outings for the Black Cats, whilst averaging a sublime SofaScore rating of 7.34.
This means that he has scored 25 times in 38 league matches for Sunderland since joining for £300k. This works out at £12k spent per goal he has scored so far and it would not be surprising to see that number dwindle in the coming months and years as his statistics do not suggest that he is going to stop finding the net any time soon.
His impressive form landed him high praise from an opposition manager earlier this term, with Portsmouth’s Danny Cowley saying: “Everyone talks about Ross Stewart’s goals, but the way he defends from the front is the reason why for me is the best forward in the division.”
These comments suggest that he offers more than goals and is able to lead from the front with his pressing. His 5.7 aerial battles won per game also show that he offers a big outlet at the top end of the pitch, with Sunderland using him as a focal point to relieve pressure.
Taking all of these points into consideration, Speakman pulled off a masterclass in bringing Stewart to the Stadium of Light last year.
Hopefully, the Black Cats chief can continue to pull gems out of the back and lead the club back to the Championship.