Tony Mowbray makes Dan Neil transfer admission as he explains next key challenge for Sunderland youngster

Tony Mowbray is confident that Dan Neil can develop under his management after revealing that he had been a potential transfer target at Blackburn Rovers.

Mowbray’s former club were one of many tracking Neil with a view to potentially making a move if the Black Cats had failed to win promotion from League One last time out.

The 20-year-old lost his place in the latter stages of that campaign as Alex Neil felt he was on the brink of burnout in his first full season of professional football, but he has been a regular in the Championship.

Mowbray has spoken of wanting players with a ‘growth mindset’ at the club and believes Neil fits into that category.

Sunderland midfielder Dan Neil

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“Dan’s career is on an upward trajectory, he’s a very talented boy,” Mowbray said.

"I sit here now, and as Blackburn Rovers manager last year, he was very much on our radar. If Sunderland weren’t going to get promoted, we would have been trying take him out of League One.

“Here I am now working with him every day, and I see the player I watched and thought he was. His passing range is very good and he can run all day.

“He’s one of the players we’re trying to get to break the box a bit more because I think he’s got a goal in him. He wants to learn and get better, and he wants to watch his clips after training.

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“He wants to keep improving and, as a coach, there’s nothing better than a footballer that wants to improve and makes demands of your time to go and sit with him and talk through what you thought was good and bad.”

Mowbray is excited to have such a talented homegrown player in the side and believes he has the personality to handle the added pressure that brings, and says the next challenge for the midfielder is to sustain his impact within games.

“The footballer has to be good enough, it’s all very well having a homegrown player in the team, but the homegrown guy can often be the one that takes a lot of the flak if things aren’t going well,” Mowbray said.

"They almost become an easy target.

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“Dan seems to me as if he’s got the personality to be able to override that. He’s still a young boy, and he does have spells in games where he doesn’t influence it as much as he could. Because of the talent level he’s got, he should be impacting football matches a lot more, for longer. But I think he’ll grow into that and understand it.

“You have to give them the confidence. If you talk about artists and soldiers, the soldiers should be winning the ball back and fighting and scrapping, and then the artists are the ones who pick the right pass and know when to dribble and shoot. Dan genuinely falls into both categories. You expect him to win second balls and put his foot in and win challenges, but then he can hit 60-yard diagonals where you think, ‘Wow, what a pass that is’.

"We want him to develop with us and hopefully we develop as a club as fast as he does.”