sport

Mannone: Keep squad together

Sunderland's Vito Mannone wants the club to hang on to as many players as possible following the club's escape from relegation.

The Black Cats bolstered their squad with a number of loans, all of which finished at the end of the season, while several others are out of contract this summer.

With the Wearside club only scrambling away from the drop zone after turning their fortunes around late last term, the exact make-up of the squad for pre-season is unclear but the goalkeeper hopes the nucleus remains intact.

"I hope that we can keep as many bodies together as possible. If it was up to me, we would keep as many of this season's players as we can, and then go from there," said the 26-year-old, who has one year remaining on his contract.

"We can add some more quality players, and I am sure the gaffer will be looking at that. But it is going to be difficult because we could find ourselves losing some important people and that would be a real shame. I hope it doesn't happen."

Players loaned in included defenders Marcos Alonso and Santiago Vergini from Fiorentina and Estudiantes respectively, while Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng was another who moved to the Stadium of Light until the end of 2013/14.

Sebastian Larsson, Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley lead a list of those approaching the end of their contracts, but former Arsenal keeper Mannone feels their contributions in keeping Sunderland in the Premier League should all count for something in the club's immediate future.

"We are happy with what we have done, but it is just a base and we have to make sure we build from it next season. Hopefully, we will be able to do that with the players who were so crucial to our survival.

"We can't do this every year. You don't want a heart attack every season! We need to grow as a team and a club, and growing means keeping this team and staff together and trying to build something together. We know we can play some nice football with these players, although we also know that we have to improve again."