How Sunderland showed belief in Dan Neil this summer as Black Cats midfielder explains personal targets
Sunderland didn’t have any plans to send Dan Neil out on loan before this season’s first-team breakthrough.
The Black Cats have allowed players such as Jack Diamond, 21, and Josh Hawkes, 22, to leave on loan this summer, as head coach Lee Johnson wants the club’s younger players to gain regular game time.
Yet Neil, who has started every game for Sunderland this campaign, says there was a clear opportunity for him during pre-season.
When asked if there was any talk of a potential loan move at the start of the summer, Neil replied: “There wasn’t. I think the manager wanted to give all the young lads a chance first going into the start of the season, all the pre-season games.
“I don’t think there was any talk of a loan move for anyone and it was just basically to show us you are ready to take the shirt.
“Obviously I did well in pre-season so there was no talk of a loan at all.”
At the start of this campaign Neil was asked to play left-back due to Sunderland’s lack of options there, which also showed the 19-year-old’s versatility.
“My target when I first came in from the start was to just show that I’m ready to play in the first team,” explained Neil.
“As things started progressing in pre-season it was like right I need to make sure I’m playing well in every game, trying to get a goal like I did against York.
“When I played the first game at left-back the target was to prove my versatility. Like Luke O’Nien, he can play anywhere which means he plays most weeks.
“That proved I can play in different positions and now I’m playing consistently. It's looking at numbers and picking up goals and assists.
"I’m sure if I keep working hard and doing what I’m doing I’ll pick up a few this season.
“I haven’t got a certain number, it’s just going into every game and making sure we can get the three points first and foremost. If I get an assist or a goal that’s a bonus.”