Alex Neil's transfer verdict as Sunderland boss discusses Aji Alese's cameo against Dundee United
Alex Neil says Sunderland still have a variety of positions to fill ahead of the new Championship season but is pleased with the club’s transfer business so far this summer.
The Black Cats have bolstered their defensive options by signing Daniel Ballard and Aji Alese from Arsenal and West Ham respectively, while Jack Clarke has arrived permanently from Tottenham.
“We still have signings to make in a variety of positions so we know we have work to do,” admitted Neil after Sunderland’s 2-0 win over Dundee in a pre-season friendly.
“We’ve worked well and quietly in the background to get players in which has been good but we understand that we have got more to do because it is going to be a long, hard, difficult season in the Championship.
“It’s a tough level to operate at, particularly when we haven’t been there for a significant amount of time. I think it will open some eyes when we get there.”
Alese, 21, has signed a three-year deal at Sunderland, with a club option of a further year, and came off the bench for the final 25 minutes against Dundee United.
“He is very different from what we have got,” said Neil when asked about the left-footed centre-back.
“He’s big, strong, powerful, left footed which I think we needed for balance. He can equally play at left-back as well as left centre-back so it covers both positions off which, certainly last year, we were light in that area. I think he is a good signing.
“He’s not played a lot of minutes so what we don’t want to do is we don’t want to be too judgemental over him too early but he’s certainly got the raw attributes to become a big powerful centre-back. He can step in as you saw today and split a line, hit a diagonal so he’s got the tools.”
Sunderland won the game against Dundee United 2-0 courtesy of Trai Hume’s header and an own goal from Charlie Mulgrew.
The Black Cats now have three more friendly matches against Bradford, Accrington Stanley and Hartlepool before their Championship opener against Coventry on Sunday, July 31.