Encouraging Trai Hume signs give Sunderland boss Alex Neil a selection call ahead of Coventry test

Following Sunderland’s 1-1 draw with Hartlepool United, Black Cats boss Alex Neil concluded there had been positives and negatives to take from pre-season.

While the squad remains visabily short in some positions, others have taken their opportunities to step up this summer, with right-back Trai Hume falling into that category.

The 20-year-old defender made just three League One appearances after signing for Sunderland from Northern Irish club Linfield in January, with Carl Winchester and Lynden Gooch being prefered on the right side of defence.

Yet Hume has started three of Sunderland’s six pre-season fixtures, impressing against Rangers, Dundee United (when he opened the scoring) and Hartlepool.

Trai Hume playing for Sunderland in pre-season. Picture by Frank Reid

Hume operated in a wing-back role against Pools and was a prominent attacking threat as the hosts defended in numbers during a 1-1 draw at the Suit Direct Stadium.

That could be significant when it’s still unclear if Sunderland will operate with a back four or a back three for their Championship opener against Coventry this weekend. The Sky Blues often played with the latter during their 2021/22 campaign.

Yet Hume has made a strong case to start in either a wing-back or full-back role, and, more importantly, that he can step into the side when called upon.

The 20-year-old didn’t have much defensive work to contend with against Hartlepool but was tenacious when trying to win the ball back in advanced positions.

He was regularly popping up in the opposition’s box, too, with the Black Cats attempting different avenues to try and break down a compact defence.

Of course Hume will face tougher tests in competitive fixtures, yet, after multiple call-ups for the Northern Ireland national team, he should now be considered a senior option rather than a long-term asset, after signing a four-and-a-half-year deal.

While there are still other areas of Sunderland’s squad which need addressing, particularly up front and at left-back, it will be interesting to see if they target another right-sided defender this summer.

Gooch, 26, now seems set to play that role more regularly and would provide a more experienced option for the Coventry clash.

Still, Hume has given the head coach something to think about ahead of the side’s opening fixture.