The Sunderland player grades for the season so far after an impressive start to life in League One

Sunderland travel to Portsmouth on Saturday with a big chance to cut the gap to the top of the table.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 8:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 10:05 am
Jack Ross and Chris Maguire celebrate a crucial win at Bradford City

The Black Cats are well placed for a promotion push as the season approaches the midway point, so we've run the rule over the squad to grade their efforts so far.

Won his team valuable points with some outstanding saves. Concentration has been excellent in quieter games and his distribution rarely falters. A*
Very little league action but has done his job in the Checkatrade Trophy. Did superbly against Stoke City U21s and made some good saves in other games. C
Sluggish start to the campaign but in recent weeks has recaptured the form that made him so highly-rated at Celtic. Suddenly one of the first names on the teamsheet and a potent attacking weapon. A-

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Would have hoped to make this his breakthrough season but has endured awful luck with injury. Remains some way off a comeback. D
His attacking quality has impressed Jack Ross and particularly in the early part of the season, there were some vital assists. Struggled to get in the side since then and few would quibble with Reece James selection. C+
Struggled to overcome a difficult start to his Sunderland career and remains fourth choice at centre back. Still, two strong showings off the bench at AFC Wimbledon and Bradford City helped secure critical wins. C-
Form has dipped slightly in recent weeks but generally been a very good addition at the heart of defence. Tenacity crucial to the long winning run that truly launched Sunderlands promotion push. A-
Not quite had Flanagans consistency but has been a regular and showed real quality on the ball. Prone to making the occasional error but they have been less frequent of late. A very good summer buy. B+
James himself says he still has more to give in an attacking sense but his performances have been good and he is very rarely caught out defensively. A very reliable performer. B+
Few opportunities to get on the pitch due to injury but those showings have been enough to put himself very much in Jack Rosss long-term plans. Looks to have all the tools for a good career. B-
A regular as Sunderland bounced back from that first defeat at Burton. Hasnt hit the levels many hoped for in pre-season but the balance he provides has regularly been important. B-
Looked unlikely to feature much this season when he was left out of the squad on the opening day but since returning has been superb. Tenacious, used his experience and even added some important goals. Has been a big boost. A
Minutes on the pitch have been limited since August but he has looked remarkably composed whenever the chance has arrived. A really exciting prospect. B+
What should have been his breakthrough campaign has been a trial, through no fault of his own. Appalling luck with injury. Looked good in the Checkatrade when he has been fit. D
Adds some physicality to the midfield and alongside his long-range passing, that has quickly made him a very popular player with supporters. Will be desperate for a consistent second half of the season after testing period. C+
Not been able to take the limited chances he has had to start games. Yet his performances from the bench have often been vital and his attitude is exemplary. B-
Has shown himself to be a fine club captain and his performances keep getting better, showing a speed of thought and passing superior to most other midfielders at this level. A-
Can still improve but Jack Ross has proved to be the perfect manager for his direct style. Output has been fantastic and it has been a genuine thrill to see a player with so much love for the club thrive. A
Played so many minutes, something that shouldnt be underestimated given some of Sunderlands injury problems. Quality has invariably been good and emerged as a genuine cult hero early in the season. A
Looked like he might be a luxury to begin with but has seized the responsibility given to him by Ross and there is no one in the league you would swap him for now. Relentless quality in the final third and a joy to watch. A
Simply outstanding. Concerns over some areas of his game should be largely irrelevant when he has been so good in the box. Easy to forget that he has often been Sunderlands only available orthodox striking option. A*
Form and confidence have dipped in recent times and he will want more goals. His role in some key wins should not be overlooked, however. B-
Looked well off the pace when he made his first appearances, something which Jack Ross took the blame for. Seems to be in better shape this time around and his presence will be vital in the testing winter months. D
Little action so far but his and his managers patience looks set to be rewarded. A lively, sensible cameo against Bristol Rovers showed real promise. Just seeing him on the pitch has been on the best moments this season.