The reality behind Dion Sanderson's summer move and why it was always going to be difficult for Sunderland
Even from the start, it was a deal that was met with some surprise.
The expectation from Wolves’ end last summer was that Dion Sanderson would secure another Championship move following his loan spell at Cardiff City. There was tentative interest again from the Bluebirds, and from Sheffield Wednesday, but nothing came to fruition.
And so we came to the summer deadline, where Sunderland – who had already lost Arbenit Xhemajli to a long-term injury – were in real need of a centre back, and one who wouldn’t count towards salary cap calculations.
Wolves, meanwhile, wanted one of their best young players to gain some further senior experience.
It was a move that ultimately suited both parties, even if it wasn’t what the Premier League side had initially hoped for.
But if Sanderson joining Sunderland was something of a surprise last summer, it would have been an even bigger one had a permanent deal been struck this summer.
There was speculation, of course, and that was always to be expected.
Indeed, there is no doubt that it was a deal that Sunderland would have been keen to do given the impact he made at the Stadium of Light and Kristjaan Speakman was in regular contact with his counterparts at Wolves both during and after the 2020/21 season.
There was always a great deal of doubt over whether the top flight side would allow Sanderson to leave, however. While reports of a £2million asking price circulated, interested clubs were highly skeptical as to this.
And from Sunderland’s perspective, such a figure would have only increased the competition for the defender’s services.
His performances on Wearside last season captured the attention of a number of clubs, with scouts from Premier League and Championship clubs regularly attendees at fixtures in the latter half of the season.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Sanderson has now clinched a move to the second tier with Birmingham City.
But that the 21-year-old has gone elsewhere should not be a negative reflection on Sunderland.
Sanderson is known to have enjoyed his time on Wearside and forged close relationships with his teammates and staff at the Academy of Light.
His focus, though, has always been on forcing his way into the senior set-up at Wolves.
Speaking as recently as February, the defender said: “"If the opportunity to play for Wolves presented itself, I would take it.
"Wolves have been my boyhood club, and it's where I see myself in the future."
And the club clearly have high hopes for the defender, having handed him a four-year deal at Molineux.
So for multiple reasons, this was always going to be a difficult deal to do.
It’s disappointing that Sanderson will be continuing his career away from Sunderland, given the undoubted potential he has.
But supporters will not begrudge a likeable and extremely talented young man for taking the next step in what is sure to be an excellent senior career.
It’s sad that step won’t be with Sunderland, but the memories of his successful loan spell will long linger.