SUNDERLAND will keep tabs on Dundee United’s talented young centre-half John Souttar after failing with a £400,000 bid for the 16-year-old in the transfer window.
The teenager underlined his promise earlier this week in a Scotland Under-19 side which held their Icelandic counterparts to a 1-1 draw at Stirling Albion’s Forthbank Stadium on Tuesday.
And it was that sort of form which prompted Sunderland to pursue their interest in a player who has emerged as a potential star of the future in former Sunderland coach Ricky Sbragia’s Scotland Under-19 squad.
Souttar has admitted he was thrilled at the ideal of a Premier League club coming in for him, but believes that, for the moment, his career is better-served getting first-team football at Tannadice.
Speaking of the interest from Wearside, he said: “It’s flattering from clubs like that which you see on Match of the Day.
“It was nice to hear, but you always put it to the back of your mind – I am focused on my club football and doing the best I can for United.”
Explaining his reasoning, Souttar said: “You have seen people going down south and some of them just fading away.
“Then you see others who have done exceptionally well, like James McCarthy getting a move to Everton for £14m.
“You need to look at both sides.
“You have to look at him and try and do as well as he has done. Everyone wants to play down in England, play at the highest level possible.”
Souttar believes the risk in coming to Sunderland was that he might disappear without trace and he’s hoping that by learning his trade with the Tangerines, he might be able to give himself greater chance of success if, or when, he moves to England.
Defender Gavin Gunning, Souttar’s club-mate, believes the youngster has made the right decision in staying put for the time being.
“It was no surprise there was interest,” said the Irishman. “John might not get too much game-time this season, with the more experienced guys in there, but there is no harm in him staying here for a while longer.
For the moment, Souttar is concentrating on doing his best for Dundee United and the Under-19s, with Sbragia contemplating challenging European Championship games against Belarus, Germany and Latvia, with the top two teams going through to the elite round.
Souttar is looking forward to it.
“We are not just there to make up the numbers,” he said. “Our first thought is qualifying from the group and I think we will go through.”