Sunderland boss keeping close tabs on highly-rated striker during loan spell in Scotland

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.
Sunderland manager Jack Ross.
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Jack Ross has been keeping a close eye on highly-rated Sunderland youngster Connor Shields during his loan spell at Alloa Athletic.

Shields, 21, joined the third-tier side on a season-long loan last month, and made his first start in Alloa’s 1-1 draw with Dundee United in the Scottish League Challenge Cup at the weekend, the striker played 62 minutes.

Alloa are part-time which means the striker can link up with the Scottish club on Thursday and still train with the Black Cats for most of the week.

Shields has played regularly for Sunderland’s U23 side after signing in January 2018.

Still, U23s manager Elliott Dickman believes the challenges of playing senior football will help the player’s development.

“It’s taken a while for it to happen for him, and moving forward he’s going to be playing against men so for his development it is going to be a good move,” said Dickman.

“As long as he shows improvement, that willingness to work and develop his all-round game, it’s a good opportunity for him.”

Ross, who managed Alloa in 2016, has taken a keen interest in the youth side since his arrival at Sunderland and was in attendance when the U23s defeated West Brom last week.

Those connections could have influenced Shields’ move but, according to Dickman, that wasn’t the main factor behind the deal.

The major benefit is that Sunderland have an option to recall the player in January, and can still monitor the player while exposing him to first-team football.

“There’s a few people might know the manager up there and the manager’s been keen on Connor for a while.”

“He’ll be doing some training with ourselves and we’ll monitor what he’s doing with us.

“He will also be training with then and obviously playing for them on a weekend if he’s selected.

“He’ll be between the two clubs and we’ll monitor closely exactly what he’s doing.”