'South Shields just felt like home' - Dutch defender reveals why he turned down Sunderland
Dutch defender Wouter Verstraaten has lifted the lid on his talks with Sunderland - and why he ultimately chose non-league South Shields over the Black Cats.
Verstraaten only joined the Mariners in December but quickly caught the eye with some assured performances in the centre of defence.
He was subsequently invited for a trial at the Academy of Light and featured for the under-23 side in Premier League 2.
But despite holding preliminary negotiations with Sunderland over a permanent stay, Verstraaten ultimately decided to pen a new deal at Mariners Park.
And speaking to the Mariners Podcast, the 24-year-old revealed that a lack of clarity over where he would stand at Sunderland - coupled with a homely atmosphere - saw him commit his future with South Shields.
“During lockdown there were some negotiations with both parties,” explained Verstraaten.
“The main thing I can say is that South Shields have been clear, and honest, and felt like home from the beginning on. That's something that Sunderland couldn't convince me with.
“Obviously I'd been talking with them about what team I was coming in for - the under-23s or the first team - and they couldn't get clear on that.
“They were very - I wouldn't say weird, but I felt like there was something going on within the organisation of Sunderland that they couldn't convince me about their plan for me.
“As a 24-year-old player, I just wanted to have a more clear path that I was going to go in and not be a young player who was going to work his way up from the under-23s or whatever.
“South Shields just felt like home from early on and they understood my situation. They told me to go and talk with Sunderland but to know that they were there and they also said what path they wanted to go down with me.
“I'm very happy I made this decision.”
Sunderland are aiming to add a number of players to their under-23 squad this season.