How Manchester City loanee Callum Doyle forced Wigan and Charlie Wyke to change tactics on teenager's Sunderland debut
In the build-up to Sunderland’s League One opener against Wigan, Lee Johnson described Manchester City loanee Callum Doyle as an ‘outstanding young talent.’
Such was the teenager’s composure and maturity during the Black Cats’ 2-1 win over the Latics, it was easy to forget he’s still only 17. Yes, only 17.
At that raw age, there will of course be times when Doyle makes mistakes during a long and arduous campaign, yet what he brings to the side will be a big asset for the way Johnson wants to play.
The left-footed central defender has been labelled as someone who is comfortable playing out from the back, a trait which was clear in the early stages against Wigan.
Doyle was comfortably able to open up his body and give the ball to Aiden McGeady or Dan Neil on his left side, while the centre-back also produced some probing lofted passes for Lynden Gooch on the opposite flank.
It was to Doyle’s credit that Wigan striker Charlie Wyke began to stand closer to the defender to stop him starting attacks from the back.
Instead Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge was forced to pass the ball to Tom Flanagan in the right centre-back role, which had the desired effect to slow down the hosts’ attack.
There were some shaky moments as Wigan targeted the Black Cats’ left side in the first half, with Latics winger Callum Lang causing problems for Sunderland’s stand-in left-back Dan Neil.
It was an attack down that flank which led to the opening goal, which Gwion Edwards eventually converted, and there was another moment in the first half when both Doyle and Neil were caught upfield after diving into challenges.
Yet as Johnson pointed out after the game, Doyle settled quickly in front of a crowd of 31,549.
The teenager was strong with his tackling, while former Black Cats striker Wyke, who scored 30 goals in all competitions last term, endured a frustrating afternoon.
Johnson still wants to sign another central defender this summer, yet Doyle looks set to be a regular starter in the left centre-back role.
This had the makings of a challenging opener for the Manchester City youngster, but the early signs suggest he’ll be a key player for Sunderland this season.