The clear Dan Neil message Sunderland fans will love after award wins and Aston Villa, Burnley speculation
Dan Neil's breakthrough campaign has led to two prestigious awards, and the young midfielder has again stressed his determination to lead his boyhood club back through the leagues.
After being named EFL Young Player of the Month last week (an award once won by Josh Maja), the 20-year-old was on Monday named the North East Football Writers' Association Young Player of the Year for 2021.
Neil became the third Sunderland winner of that award which began in 2008, following Jack Colback and Jordan Pickford.
"I am honoured to win this award because I know how big it is within the North East, but it was a surprise because this is my first real season playing first team football and I know the players who have won it in the past," Neil said.
“Of course, it means more because it is a local award and there is a lot of top talent within the region, so to be recognised as one of the best is a real privilege.”
The youngster's outstanding form has also led to a return to the international youth set ups, and represents a remarkable achievement given that injury kept him out of the game for almost two years between the ages of 14 and 16.
The midfielder has been scouted prolifically by Championship and Premier League clubs this season, but recently signed a new long-term deal on Wearside and reacting to his EFL award, stressed his determination to help win promotion with the Black Cats.
“My first season full-time was the first season in League One and ever since I came in, I’ve always thought that I want to be part of the squad that gets us back up to the Championship and then hopefully to the Premier League," he said.
"I’m just thankful that I’m in the squad now and it looks like we’ve got a fighting chance to get out of this league.
“We’ve chopped and changed a lot over the years and there’s not really been a philosophy imprinted on the club.
"Now, there is a proper playing style being implemented here and off the pitch, the standards are high around the place.
"It’s very positive around the club at the moment and hopefully some stability can carry us to success.”
Neil admitted that his extensive game time this season has come as something of a surprise, and he is determined to build on it and secure a return to the second tier in May.
"When the season ended, I knew a lot of players were being released, so I just worked hard to build myself up physically and then I had a good pre-season," he said.
“I didn’t think I would be as involved as I have been, but with injuries and suspensions, plus the fact I feel I’ve been playing well, I’ve been able to keep my place in the side.
"I can’t rest on my laurels now; I’ve got to keep improving and hopefully help us achieve the end goal of promotion at the end of the season."