Dan Neil explains how Sunderland role changes when playing with Corry Evans or Edouard Michut

Dan Neil says he’s had to adapt his game in recent weeks when Sunderland captain Corry Evans hasn’t been on the pitch.

The pair have often started alongside each other in midfield this season, yet Black Cats boss Tony Mowbray opted to make changes over the festive period.

Evans was taken out of the starting XI for games against Wigan and Blackpool due to fatigue, while the 32-year-old was forced off with an injury during Sunderland’s 2-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“When Corry’s there, everyone knows what type of player Corry is,” Neil told the Echo when discussing his role after the Middlesbrough match. “He’s almost that anchorman where he’s happy for you to go and get involved in the play and attack, and then he’s the one that will mop up behind.

Dan Neil playing for Sunderland against Middlesbrough. Picture by FRANK REID

“It’s almost like the chains are off when Corry’s playing and I can go and get in the box, like at Swansea last week where I got in the box and got my goal.

"When Corry’s not in the team, that responsibility of being that anchorman changes to me, and I’ve got to be the one that says, ‘Go on lads, you go and score a goal, I’ll sit and make sure they can’t counter-attack on us’.

"It’s just switching that mentality of ‘Right, I want to go and score a goal’ to ‘Right, I want to stop us from conceding a goal’. That’s the biggest thing, just the mentality switch.

“Whenever you see the team, the coaches will come up to me and say, ‘Right, the chains are off, you can go and get in the box as much as you can’, or when Corry’s not in the team, it’s more, ‘Be a bit more conservative, we’ve got the players at the top end of the pitch to go and win the game for us, make sure we keep things tight and stop transitions.”

Read More
Ross Stewart's post-match Middlesbrough verdict Sunderland fans will love after ...

Evans was replaced by Edouard Michut against Middlesbrough, with the 19-year-old starting to make more of an impact in Sunderland’s first team following his loan move from PSG in the summer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Ed is a great player,” Neil added when asked about the Frenchman. “He takes the ball really nicely on the half turn and makes things happen and makes things tick, so then I need to take that bit more of a conservative role.

“He’s really good to play with and you just have to coach him a bit in terms of the defensive side, obviously it’s his first season playing first-team football similar to what I was like last year.

“You just have to give him these little tips and tricks of second balls and things, what the English games demands.”

Sunderland are now preparing for this weekend’s FA Cup tie at Fulham, with Neil looking forward to a test against Premier League opposition.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The Fulham one is going to be a good one. We obviously played against Arsenal last year but the squad has improved,” he added.

“The football that we’re playing has improved since then so it will be a good one to see where we’re at.”