Sunderland boss makes honest Elliot Embleton admission
Lee Johnson says Elliot Embleton is a 'different beast' after his promotion-winning spell at Blackpool.
Embleton backed up a superb pre-season campaign with an influential display in the 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic, playing a part in the penalty that saw Sunderland level the scores and then producing the assist for Ross Stewart's winner.
Blackpool have been interested in striking a permanent deal for the 22-year-old this summer but Sunderland have insisted that he has a key part to play on Wearside.
Johnson conceded on Saturday that his decision to drop Embleton for his first game in charge (also against Wigan last December) had been a blow for Embleton, but is excited about the next stage of his Sunderland career.
"Elliot has been fantastic," Johnson said.
"We didn't get off to a great start, not me and him, but him and me if you know what I mean. Because my first game in charge I picked McGeady and Andrew Taylor had picked Elliot to play.
"I think that, initially, maybe he thought there was a bit of an agenda against him on my part, which there wasn't.
"We'll always try do and right by our players, and him going out on loan was the right thing for him. It's obviously bitten us on the backside a bit because Blackpool went and got promoted but at the same time, what we've got now is a completely different beast in Elliot.
"He's got the gravitas of having that promotion under his belt, he's got the belief. He knows now that our relationship is good and that he's going to get that opportunity.
"He has taken that right from the start.
"He's also got a lot of pressure on him because we have good players in those positions, with Alex Pritchard coming back and Aiden O'Brien who gives us that something different as well.
"His footballing ability is so good, both feet, he can go both ways.
"I've been really, really pleased with him."
Embleton has one year left on his current deal and speaking to The Echo earlier this week, Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman said he intends to open talks with a view to an extension.
"He’s come back and done extremely well in pre-season, and is someone who we think can be a huge player for us this season and in the future," Speakman said.
"We took the option up on his deal when he went out in January so he has a year left, and that’s something that we’ll have a discussion on with him and his agent.
"I’ve spoken to Elliot a few times and he’s a Sunderland boy, desperate to play for the club, and like any young player he wants minutes on the pitch, he wants to play.
"Any club at our level, you need to see the performances as well. So at the minute, it’s just a conversation that we’ll get started in terms of wanting to retain him.
"I think Elliot understands how much we appreciate and admire him at the club.
"He’s had a smashing period since he came back from that long injury, so he’s in a really, really good place.
"I do think he probably represents everything we want at the football club."