Sunderland boss Alex Neil gives interesting verdict on Jay Matete's current and future squad position

Alex Neil says Jay Matete remains a part of his first-team plans at Sunderland after the midfielder was left out of the squad for the opening day of the Championship season.

By Phil Smith
Saturday, 6th August 2022, 6:00 am

While Neil has suggested that Jack Diamond, who also missed out against Coventry City, could go out on loan dependent on Sunderland's recruitment, he says he has not considered that with Matete at this stage.

The 21-year-old made 16 appearances last season as he made a successful start to his switch from Fleetwood Town, but is one of a number of players now stepping up to Championship level for the first time.

Neil admits it is imperative that young players do not stall as a result of limited game time, but clearly does not think Matete is in that bracket as of yet.

Sunderland midfielder Jay Matete

"Jay had a really good trip to Portugal, I thought he was really good," Neil said.

"Since we've come back I think it's just been a bit unfortunate for Jay that there's been a couple of lads ahead of him in those positions.

"To be honest, a loan for Jay is at this stage I've not really considered.

"We'll need to see how the rest of the window pans out. What you've got is you need to have a squad that's going to be competitive, and that means a couple of lads are going to miss out from time to time. You can't include everybody, I can only pick 18.

"But there's also lads whose minutes you deem are going to be limited, so in the best interest of them and us, you need to actively get them out playing some football. You certainly don't want their career to stall.

"It's a difficult balance because with your squad, you want to make sure these lads have got enough minutes in their legs but equally they've got to merit their place in the team.

"You can sometimes get caught in between. We're doing out utmost at the moment to try and manage that, but equally you can't leave yourselves short. In pre-season we can really manage the schedule, but once the games start it is much harder.

"The games are at full intensity, there's contact, and injuries naturally happen.

"We can't leave ourselves short."

Neil also said that missing out on the bench was not necessarily a reflection of his judgement on a player's ability.

"I try to explain this to some of the lads if they're maybe not involved," he said.

"Picking your starting XI and picking your bench are two very different things. Your XI you are picking a team who you deem gives you the best chance depending on how you're going to play. Picking your bench is about making sure all your potential 'maybes' in a game are covered off, and you've got enough cover in all the positions on the pitch.

"So you can sometimes have a really good player who doesn't make the bench, but it's just because you can't have five midfield players on the bench, for example.

"It's about making sure you get the right balance."