Player watch: Why Jack Baldwin is becoming the heartbeat of Sunderland's new-look side

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He was far from the standout summer signing.

But as each game progresses, Jack Baldwin only further highlights his importance to this new-look Sunderland side.

Jack Baldwin is becoming the heartbeat of Sunderland's new-look team

Jack Baldwin is becoming the heartbeat of Sunderland's new-look team

And Saturday’s visit of Fleetwood Town was no exception as the centre back put in another elegant yet aggressive display at the centre of defence.

His performances are a far cry from some of the reviews that accompanied his move from Peterborough United, with several around London Road far from convincing in their assessments of the 25-year-old.

But while the reviews may have been mixed, Baldwin’s performances have not been - the former Hartlepool United man a hallmark of consistency at the back thus far.

It’s that kind of consistency that Sunderland will need across the park if they are to mount a promotion push and Baldwin is certainly leading from the back in that respect - with the attributes that persuaded Jack Ross to make his move evident week in, week out.

Baldwin’s defensive nous is perhaps his most impressive trait; the defender able to knick in and steal the ball off an attacker’s toe undetected.

In similar elegant fashion, his comfort in playing out from the back is welcome and ensures that the Black Cats continue to play the eye-catching, attacking football that Ross has been so keen to instill in the side.

It’s not all so delicate though, with Baldwin more than happy to do the dirty side of the game too - something which is naturally required in the third tier.

Crunching tackles, dominant headers and thumping clearances all feature heavily from a defender who seamlessly blends the stereotypical ‘old-fashioned’ brand of centre back with its more modern equivalent.

Impressive too is Baldwin’s effectiveness at both ends of the pitch. His aerial presence has proven useful from set pieces and it seems only a matter of time until he nets his first goal for the club.

Arguably that should have come against Fleetwood as the centre back somehow blazed over from close range as the goal gaped.

But that miss shouldn’t distract from what was otherwise a near flawless performance from Baldwin, whose stock is continuing to rise at the Stadium of Light.

His fine displays have helped to lay the foundations for Sunderland’s unbeaten start to the league season and, should he continue in this vein, teams will keep on finding it difficult to break the Black Cats down in open play.

And that itself could prove key in sealing an instant return to the Championship.