How Sunderland's Dan Neil watches Liverpool, Manchester City and Barcelona clips as he adapts to new role

Sunderland midfielder Dan Neil says he’s had to take on greater responsibility this season while also learning to play the holding midfield role.
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The 21-year-old made 46 senior appearances last term, yet lost his place in the starting XI during the second half of a breakthrough campaign.

Since Sunderland’s promotion to the Championship, Neil has been a key player in the side’s midfield, while an injury to captain Corry Evans has led to Neil playing in a slightly deeper midfield position.

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“It feels different due to circumstances we can’t control,” Neil told the Echo when asked about his role in the side compared to this time last year. “Corry is out for the season so I have to step up because I think I actually am the oldest midfielder in the squad.

Dan Neil and Sunderland head coach Tony Mowbray.Dan Neil and Sunderland head coach Tony Mowbray.
Dan Neil and Sunderland head coach Tony Mowbray.

“I have had to kind of take on that role which wasn’t probably natural to me last season. I think if anyone said last season I’d play the Corry Evans role everyone would have just kind of laughed because it wasn’t me at all.

“I feel like as the season has progressed I’m growing more into the role, obviously I still have things to work on like everyone does, but that’s the difference this year as I’ve had to adapt to a new role.”

Alongside Sunderland coach Mike Dodds, Neil has also been studying the very best players who play the holding midfield role, including Manchester City’s Rodri, Liverpool’s Fabinho and Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.

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“I always watch players, so I watch players who are playing in more attacking roles when Corry is in the team,” Neil added.

“When Corry is out of the team it’s the likes of Rodri, it’s the likes of Fabinho, Busquets, people like that, top defensive midfielders in the world. You just try and take as many tips as you can.

“I get best practice clips off Doddsy and we’ll sit and look at them, and I’ll look at them in my own time like the night before a game and stuff.

“You just try and get any tips and tricks you can off them.”