Sunderland boss explains his Dan Neil dilemma and the plans for talented youngster as it stands
Lee Johnson admits Sunderland face a dilemma as to whether or not they send Dan Neil out on loan this season.
Sunderland s head coach continues to be impressed by the 19-year-old, who has been training with the senior group throughout the pre-season period so far.
As such, he believes the most likely course of action as it stands is for Neil to stay with the senior group until the January window at least.
Neil has started both of Sunderland's pre-season fixtures so far, and was impressive in the 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday.
Johnson's midfield options have now been strengthened by the arrival of Corry Evans, who made his debut in the closing stages of that fixture.
Johnson also hopes that the arrival of a new right-back will allow Carl Winchester to move back into his favoured midfield role, while Luke O'Nien is set to make his return at Harrogate Town on Saturday afternoon.
"It's an interesting one because we really believe in Dan Neil," Johnson said.
"If you're going to develop someone they probably need 25 games in the season.
"Obviously, we can 100% guarantee him four in those early cup games and then it's up to him.
"He's close enough [to first-team selection] for me to want to keep him close, but he's good enough to go and play, and get the league games.
"It is always delicate because it's only an injury here or a good cup performance there and he's right in it.
"I think, more than likely, I'd probably say that we would keep him with us until christmas and then reassess."
Sunderland's squad has been supplemented by a number of U23s players in the early stages of pre-season, and the head coach has praised them for making a positive impression.
"They've done extremely well," he said.
"It is a step up training with the first team and the physical, tactical demands that come with that.
"Generally they've added that enthusiasm that you really want to see.
"There are times when the quality isn't quite there but that's OK, that's what we're here to coach and work on.
"We've got an obligation with every player, and particularly with the young players, to develop their game."