Who is Newcastle United target Dion Sanderson – and how did the Wolves defender perform at Sunderland?
Newcastle United have reportedly had a bid of around £1million rejected by Wolverhampton Wanderers for former Sunderland loan man Dion Sanderson.
But what do we know about the reported defensive target? Sunderland AFC writer Phil Smith from our sister title the Sunderland Echo gives us the lowdown on the player, who he believes will one day be a Premier League regular.
How did Sanderson perform at Sunderland?
He was voted young player of the season and that only partially tells you just how popular a figure he was.Sanderson actually took a while to break through into the first team, not so much a reflection on him but on the way Phil Parkinson had a settled group of senior defenders who by and large were performing well.Once he broke through in the new year, though, he never looked back.He was often the only natural defender playing in his proper position due to widespread injuries, and showed a maturity well beyond his years.It's widely felt that the back injury which ended his campaign was one of the key reasons why Sunderland fell short in their promotion bid.
What type of player is he?
He is quick, which means he has played at right back in the past.However, from what we saw last season his long-term future is almost certainly at the heart of defence.He's athletic and distributes the ball very well. He is your typical modern centre-back.
What are Sanderson's main strengths and weaknesses?
His composure on the ball is an asset and he rarely gives it away when stepping out from the back.He has real pace, too, which can help a side play a little higher up the pitch.It's hard to pinpoint any real glaring weaknesses, other than to say that very obviously as a younger defender he will only improve the more senior football he plays.
Do you believe he is ready for the Premier League – or has the potential to thrive at that level in the future?
At this stage my view would be that it is a little early for Sanderson to be a regular in the Premier League.He's had a decent run in the Championship and an excellent run in League One. So I'd be looking at a full campaign playing centre-back in the second tier as the best next step.In the long run, though, I think he has the attributes to be a Premier League player.
Is there still Sunderland interest in signing him this summer?
Sunderland would love to bring him back to the club but there's an understanding that it might be difficult.It remains, despite some reports, far from clear that Wolves are prepared to sell him this summer and the reality is that should he become available either on loan or permanently, there is likely to be interest from higher tiers.Sanderson had an excellent season here, and forged a strong bond with staff and fans alike, so there will always be some hope.But whether tangible progress can be made remains to be seen.