What Niall Huggins' arrival at Sunderland from Leeds United means for Denver Hume
Sunderland are closing in on their seventh signing of the summer as they look to bolster their defensive options before the end of the month – but what will that mean for out-of-contract full-back Denver Hume?
With Leeds United’s Niall Huggins in advanced talks over a move to the Stadium of Light, the picture is starting to become clearer as head coach Lee Johnson assembles a squad for the 2021/22 campaign.
The Black Cats boss has always said he wants to sign two players for every position, while the arrival of Huggins would ease the concern about a lack of options at full-back.
In Sunderland’s last two league matches Johnson has felt the need to withdraw left-back Dennis Cirkin, who is still building up his match fitness following his arrival at Tottenham, and Lynden Gooch has ended up playing on the left side of defence.
While Huggins, 20, started his career as a left winger, he played at both left and right-back for Leeds’ under-23 side last season, as well as in midfield.
The Welsh under-21s international would therefore provide a useful option for Johnson, who is also looking for a more natural option at right-back, a role Carl Winchester has occupied in League One so far this season.
So presuming Huggins does sign for the Black Cats, where would that leave Hume? A player who is technically a free agent after his Sunderland contract expired at the end of last season, but has been receiving treatment on a hamstring injury at the Academy of Light.
The 23-year-old has turned down a contract offer from the club and, while Johnson is clearly growing increasingly frustrated with the situation, there is also a desire to keep a promising young player who has progressed through the academy.
Even if Huggins does join Sunderland, that wouldn’t necessarily spell the end of Hume’s career on Wearside, and Johnson spoke last week about the minimum requirement of having three full-backs in the squad.
The Black Cats boss also put forward the idea he could deploy a system which incorporated inverted full-backs, who are encouraged to cut inside onto their stronger foot.
“In an ideal world I’d have two players for every position except from probably winger where I’d prefer three of the four and maybe full-back where I’d take three of the four and have quality in those areas,” said Johnson when discussing Hume’s situation a week ago.
So with Cirkin and Huggins, Johnson would have two out of his required three full-backs, with Luke O’Nien and Winchester also able to provide cover if needed.
In theory then, that would still leave room for Hume to occupy that third space, yet clearly patience is wearing thin and Sunderland are exploring other options.
With less than two weeks to go until the window closes on August 31, there is no other alternative, the Black Cats can’t go into a long and arduous campaign with only one full-back in the squad.
While the door is not yet closed on Hume’s Sunderland career, his chances of staying at the club appear to be diminishing as the clock ticks down and the club explore other options.