Sunderland boss discusses Jordan Pickford’s big decision and how George Honeyman has improved so much this season

Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman harries Hull's one-time Black Cats loanee Alfred N'Diaye in Saturday's 2-0 win at the KCOM Stadium.
Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman harries Hull's one-time Black Cats loanee Alfred N'Diaye in Saturday's 2-0 win at the KCOM Stadium.
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David Moyes has again urged Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford to ensure he is playing regular first-team football next season.

The 23-year-old is attracting interest from across the Premier League and the Black Cats are braced for a number of bids in the summer following their relegation.

Moyes has insiste that the Wearsiders will be ‘expensive sellers’ if Pickford is to leave, but when it was put to the Sunderland boss that the odds currently seem to be against him saying, he pointed out that it is far from a foregone conclusion.

He said: “At the moment, I really wouldn’t know. Obviously it’s up to the club.

“If Jordan was to go elsewhere and not be the number one that wouldn’t be good for him because that would affect his progress. You can see what he does for us with the saves he makes. He’s been outstanding from day one.

“I think that would be a telling factor if the alternative was to go and sit on the bench somewhere else.

“If I was Jordan, I wouldn’t do that, I’d want to be playing regularly, but again Sunderland hold his contract and Jordan cant go anywhere unless we decide to let it happen.”

Pickford’s superb display in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Hull was a major positive during a rare win for the Black Cats, while George Honeyman also impressed in the number 10 role.

The 22-year-old has finally broken into the first-team picture this season and Moyes has revealed the major improvements the midfielder has made in recent times.

Moyes said: “He demands the ball, does the work for the team and I’ve got to say his football has become better.

“In the last six months, he’s started to get an understanding of releasing the ball at the right time. He had a habit of over-running the ball, but he’s starting to use it much better.

“He’s got a bit to do on his end-product and should try to get us a goal or maybe make that killer pass, but we love his energy and he’ll do whatever I ask him to do. That’s really important with where we want to go.

“I thought he played really well. I’ve got to say his level in training has lifted over the last two or three weeks. He’s been on the verge.

“He played very well at West Brom around Christmas time. I brought him in and then had to bring him back out again. But he came back (at Hull) and, because he does his work unconditionally, he doesn’t ask or look across to the bench, we don’t have to ask him to run between players or close people down.

“He does it completely unconditionally and always give his best in every game.”

Honeyman’s first-team emergence has been a long time coming, having made his debut in the FA Cup in February 2015.

A loan spell to Gateshead followed last season before a Premier league debut against Watford on the final day of the campaign.

The midfielder was linked with a move to Wigan in January, where former Sunderland U23 boss Andy Welsh had moved to become first-team coach, but no switch materialised and he has gradually foight his way into contention.

He now looks set to be a prominent squad player as Sunderland look to bounce back from relegation in the Championship next season, and Moyes praised his maturity and patience.

He said: “If you look in Spain as a guideline, players very rarely break into the team much before 21, 22, 23. We are a little bit obsessed over here with getting them into the team at 18 or 19 and I actually think that if the players don’t say ‘I need to get out on loan’ or panic too quickly and are able to hang in, then we’ll get a lot more coming through.

“We’ve got a culture of players who want to go very quickly and they’re in the reserves and don’t get into the first team.

“George has had to be really patient and, because of that, he has matured and now as you can see when he’s on, he doesn’t look out of place.”