Dan Neil reveals how he's made a first-team breakthrough at Sunderland after pre-season challenge
Dan Neil worked hard to improve the physical side of his game during pre-season and now believes he’s ready for the rigours of League One football.
The 19-year-old hadn’t started a league match for Sunderland before this season, but is the only player to be selected for every match, league and cup, this term.
Neil’s technical ability was always apparent as the midfielder came through the Wearsiders’ academy, yet the teenager knew he needed to improve in other areas.
A stunning strike against Accrington Stanley saw Neil score his first senior goal for Sunderland last time out, during another impressive display at the Stadium of Light.
He also spoke confidently and openly to the media after the match, while explaining his first-team breakthrough.
“Obviously last year was frustrating and I wanted to get more minutes but like I’ve said it was just about learning and I was maybe a bit too young to deal with that type of physical game,” said Neil.
“I learned the mental side and the physical side, tactical side off the pitch last year and then I got a challenge from the coaches and manager about getting a bit bigger and a bit faster with my first few yards.
“I think I’ve done that over the summer and the hard work has been paying off from over the summer.
“I’ve started every game including pre-season so playing every game and getting used to the tempo of the game and physicality of the game, I just feel more comfortable as the games go on.”
“I always knew I was good enough on the ball technically and seeing passes.
“I think if I was more physical last year I would have been playing, but that was the side of the game I needed to improve in order to get into this team.
“I knew I could do the passing and driving forward with the ball but I’m proud of how I went about things in the off season.
“I did weights and plyometric exercises that will increase my speed and my power. I just worked incredibly hard over the off season and am glad that all that work has paid off.”