TEAMtalk guest Kane Tuckwell outlines five players he thinks Sunderland should sign - but says keeping Stephane Sessegnon is of top importance.
With two wins in the last 10 games, Martin O'Neill's magic carpet has started a slow descent back to earth and any hopes of a Europa League spot are all but gone.
It seems O'Neill has squeezed the last of the juice out of Bruce's under-par squad and this summer should be when Sunderland's renaissance can really begin.
The Sunderland board, headed by Niall Quinn, backed both Roy Keane and Steve Bruce heavily. Now Ellis Short has taken the reigns, will the club again release the funds necessary to take advantage the promise O'Neill's first half season in charge has shown?
O'Neill generally likes to sign players who have plied their trade in the Premier League before. Realistically they will be unlikely to sign many players from unknown leagues. Whilst this was exciting under Bruce for every Stephane Sessegnon there is a Marcos Angeleri (who..?) and the last thing fans will want is another Christian Riveros.
Bearing O'Neill's preferences in mind, here is the list of players I think could come under his microscope this summer.
1 Victor Moses
Powerful, fast, young and battling relegation. Moses has impressed for Wigan since the departure of Charles N'Zogbia. He has only managed to get on the scoresheet four times this season, but his pace and power make him a constant threat to defenders. At 5ft 10 Moses may not match O'Neill's penchant for a battering ram centre-forward but his ability to play out wide of a front three could entice O'Neill to test Wigan's resolve.
2 Niko Kranjcar
Sunderland's inability to keep possession and make teams chase them for long periods has long been a source of frustration for fans. With Craig Gardner seeming unwilling to pass the ball once he enters the opposition's half this problem has continued under O'Neill. Kranjcar is the sort of cultured passer of the ball Sunderland fans have dreamed of. His ability to link up play and control the tempo is an asset all top teams need. Unfortunately Harry Rednapp loves to overcharge Sunderland so despite his lack of playing time, he will not come cheap.
3 Adam Johnson
Sunderland came close to signing Johnson in 2010 before Manchester City's millions blew them out of the water. His wages and a host of other high-profile clubs vying for his signature would likely make a permanent move impossible. But a season-long loan could see him get the first-team football he desires and prove to the top teams that he is more than just a super sub. O'Neill sides are famous for fast-paced wingers with a good end product and Johnson certainly fits that bill.
4 Wayne Hennessey
With Craig Gordon likely to move on in the summer and warm the physio table for another Premier League side - plus the rumour that Keiren Westwood will be loaned out next season gaining momentum, Sunderland may need to bring in a new goalkeeper.
Simon Mignolet has shown glimpses of ability but his lack of consistency or apparent fear of catching the ball has left many Sunderland fans unconvinced of his ability.
With Wolves all-but relegated Hennessey would likely be looking to move on. Wolves may have the worst goal difference in the Premier League but Hennessey has made the most saves. With a shot to save ratio of 70% Hennessey is one of the few Wolves players who continues to prove he is Premier League standard.
5 Ciaran Clark
With Aston Villa struggling to impress this term, there will be many vultures circling at some of the club's more leading lights. Sunderland are light at both centre-half and left-back, and Clark's versatility may convince O'Neill to splash the cash. Clark can also play in the middle and has an eye for goal (five goals in 38 games) which may be useful as the season progresses.
6 Stephane Sessegnon
Sunderland's most important bit of business this summer could be to tie the Benin magician down to a new contract. The electric playmaker, dubbed by Sunderland fans as 'Lionel Sessi', has been the shining light in Sunderland's season. Under Bruce he showed flashes of brilliance but Bruce's lack of tactical nouse meant he failed to utilise the attacking midfielder, often pushing him out wide.
Since O'Neill was appointed Sessegnon has been a revelation, becoming the lynchpin to Sunderland's fast-paced counter-attacking style. Unfortunately for Sunderland fans this has made him a target for several teams both domestically and in Europe. While O'Neill has assured fans that Sessengon will be staying put in the summer, he will need to improve Sessengon's contract if he is going to fend off the likes of Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.