From 'excellent' to 'really important': How Sunderland loanees George Dobson, Will Grigg and Elliot Embleton are faring
Three Sunderland players left the club on loan in January - and the trio are already making their mark elsewhere.
Will Grigg, George Dobson and Elliot Embleton all sealed temporary exits from the Stadium of Light during the winter window, but how have they fared since their departures? We take a look:
Grigg’s departure from Sunderland was undoubtedly the most high-profile of the three.
The big-money signing had come close to a temporary exit in the previous January window and it seemed inevitable that he would depart this time around.
The only question was where - with Shrewsbury and Oxford two clubs pushing hard for a move.
But ultimately it was MK Dons, a place where Grigg has enjoyed success before, that proved to be the striker’s destination.
And he enjoyed some further success early on in his time back at Stadium MK, scoring three goals in the early weeks of his loan spell.
However, starts have proven tricky to come by of late with Grigg’s last handed a place in the starting line-up on March 6. Much of that is to do with the impressive form of Cameron Jerome rather than any concerns over Grigg, though.
Despite that, his record still looks fairly encouraging with the striker netting three times in eleven games since his temporary move - with only six of those games starts.
And boss Russell Martin believes Grigg is starting to prove certain people wrong.
Speaking last month, the MK Dons manager said: “One of the things he's been unfairly accused of by people who don't know him or aren't behind closed doors is losing a bit of hunger.
“When I spoke to people about him, people questioned that, and you don't want to have that questioned as a character. Other than his ability, which you cannot question, people might ask about his character but he has been brilliant.
"He’s become really important to us really quickly. As long as he can prove us right and everyone else wrong, with his goals and in other ways, we'll really enjoy having him here."
For Grigg himself, the loan move has helped to boost his confidence.
“I always knew myself, and my team-mates knew I wasn't a bad player and I haven't changed overnight into a bad player,” he said.
"I think I've proven that even though I've not played football in a year, I've come into six straight games and performed consistently well with goals and assists.”
Grigg and the Dons could help Sunderland out this week, as they face fellow promotion hopefuls Doncaster Rovers.
Along with Grigg, Dobson was one of the players whose exit in January always looked likely - particularly following the arrival of Carl Winchester.
Lee Johnson had confirmed early in the month that the midfielder had turned down some options that had presented themselves - but a temporary exit to AFC Wimbledon was eventually sealed.
It saw Dobson thrown straight into a relegation battle, and he has gone on to establish himself as a key man at Plough Lane.
The former Walsall man has made 13 appearances since his loan switch, of which 11 have been starts, and retained his place in the side after the change in management at the club too.
Dobson has even found himself on the scoresheet too, with a fine diving header to ensure the Dons took a point against relegation rivals Wigan Athletic.
And manager Mark Robinson is keen for the 23-year-old to develop his attacking game further over the remainder of the season.
“We have got a squad which is very defence and midfield heavy,” he explained.
“We have a lack of attacking options.
“It is always about the how. How are the goals going to come? In the games before we tried to get midfield runners. George [Dobson] scored the other night and we wanted to get midfielders around Joe [Pigott] to support him.
“We have to keep working on that.”
Of the January exits, Embleton’s was the most surprising given he was always in and around the squad under Johnson.
But a desire to ensure the youngster was given regular football saw him join Blackpool - where he has gone on to make eight appearances since his deadline day move.
Four of those have been starts, with Embleton beginning to make his mark at Bloomfield Road.
The attacking midfielder’s arrival has coincided with a superb run of form which has seen the Tangerines shoot up the table and into play-off contention.
And Embleton himself has been key in that run, playing a vital role in wins over promotion-chasing Ipswich Town and Peterborough United in recent weeks.
While a first goal may have proved elusive so far, Embleton already has three assists to his name - including two in his last three games - and has earned plenty of praise from Blackpool boss Neil Critchley.
“He’s been excellent the last two games,” he said of Embleton.
“He’s brought a calmness to our play and he knits the game together for you well.
“He’s very good technically, he’s intelligent and he keeps the ball for you which allows you to get up the pitch and control the game.”
Embleton was withdrawn from the win over Peterborough on Tuesday evening, but Critchley was hopeful that the midfielder was only suffering from cramp.
And with some key fixtures ahead, the Blackpool chief will be desperate to have the Sunderland loanee available as the side look to maintain their play-off push.