George Dobson reveals his Sunderland season targets - and the player he’s aiming to emulate
A comfort zone isn’t a familiar concept for George Dobson.
The Sunderland new boy, still only 21, has experienced a fair raft of change during his relatively short senior career.
Indeed, take a quick glance at his playing history and you would be forgiven for believing the midfielder was a more seasoned professional.
But his varied career - which has taken him from a Premier League academy to League One, via the Dutch top flight - only serves to emphasise the determination within that prompted Jack Ross to make a move for his services.
And it was that determination that saw Dobson, then just a teenager, make the decision to leave his boyhood club in search of regular football.
A move to Holland was the only choice at the time and, while things didn’t go exactly to plan in the Eredivise, Dobson chalks the six-month spell down to experience - which he believes accelerated his development.
“I made the decision to leave West Ham when I was 18,” he explained.
“I could obviously stick it out in (under-)23s football and progress into the first but realistically you’re only going to get one who’s going to do that and for West Ham it was Declan Rice, who’s now England’s No.4.
“That kind of shows how tough it would be to progress there.
“I’d had a season on loan at Walsall but they weren’t willing to pay a transfer fee for me.
“Sparta Rotterdam were the only football club willing to do that so it was a good opportunity for me to play in the Dutch Eredivisie but it just didn’t work out.
“It was a tough time being away from home when I was 19,” he continued.
“You can’t just pop home, I came home once in six months.
“It tests you a lot mentally but by having those mental tests I feel like it’s made me a lot stronger and that’s only going to put me in good stead for times to come.”
And indeed, when Sunderland came calling this summer, that experience in Rotterdam helped convince Dobson that he could adapt to life on Wearside
“Because I had experience of going abroad and I found that tough, by having that experience of six months where I didn’t react well that’s put me in a position where I feel like I’m in a very good headspace and a very good position to come to a club where realistically you can’t come home if you need to,” added the midfielder.
“I’m ready to move away from home and be comfortable in my surroundings
“I’ve only been here a few days but with the facilities you’ve got here, I don’t get how you can’t feel at home. They’re unbelievable.
“I’m just really looking forward to working on my game and playing as many games at Sunderland as I can.”
And Dobson will always have advice close at hand in the shape of Luke O’Nien - a player who was in a similar position this time last summer.
O’Nien went on to enjoy great success during his first campaign at the Stadium of Light - something the Black Cats’ latest recruit is keen to emulate.
“I’ve spoken to Luke a few times since I’ve been here,” said Dobson.
“He said he struggled a little bit at first and then when he got his chance he took it and made around 50 appearances.
“That’s unbelievable! If I can get anywhere near that I’ll have had a brilliant season.
“I’m just going to try and take it day by day, game by game and try and make myself the best player possible to get as many minutes on the pitch as I can and help the club get as many wins.”
Dobson will face something of a battle to earn those minutes though, with competition in the centre of the park rife.
Not that he will let that affect him and, indeed, the youngster sees an opportunity to develop himself alongside his experienced counterparts.
“Of course that doesn’t faze me,” he admitted.
“Competition’s part and parcel of the game.
“There are quality players here – you look at how good a career Grant [Leadbitter]’s had and you’ve got Dylan [McGeouch] and Max [Power], they’re very good football players.
“Playing with better players is only going to make me better so I’m just looking forward to the challenge.”
Dobson is available for the season opener against Oxford this afternoon and, having had a brief taste of playing on home soil against Heerenveen, is hoping for a long spell on the Stadium of Light turf this weekend.
And in the longer-term, the midfielder wants to ensure he plays his role in what he believes can be a special’ campaign for the club.
“I’ve only played at the Stadium of Light once so to get a run-out against Heerenveen in front of the fans was special and hopefully I can get a lot more of them when the season starts.
“I’m just so excited to be here and can’t wait for the whole season, really, because it feels like something special is going to happen.”