This is what Lee Johnson said about a potential new Sunderland contract for Dan Neil
Sunderland are aiming to secure a new long-term contract for Dan Neil.
Neil has 18 months left on his current deal (his first as a professional), but his status within the squad has stepped up considerably during the current campaign.
The 19-year-old has been a regular for Lee Johnson and delivered a string of superb displays, registering another assist in the 4-0 win over Crewe Alexandra in midweek.
Johnson is not personally involved in contract talks, which is the domain of Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.
But asked whether a new deal was on the agenda at the club, Johnson said it was his recommendation that the club look to secure his future sooner rather than later.
"Certainly the recommendation from myself would be that we tie that up with Dan," Johnson said.
"I really enjoy working with him, he's a really good lad, a good student who is improving all the time.
"He's also playing extremely well at the moment.
"It would be good and the right thing to do to reward that, simple as that.
"Obviously the powers-that-be will need to negotiate that and see that through, and then it is my job in my meantime to keep him on the right path and keep him improving, keep him performing."
Johnson is eager to ensure that Neil stays grounded given that he is still an inexperienced player at senior level, but admits that's a relatively straightforward process given the midfielder's maturity.
"It's been pretty easy to keep him grounded, to be honest, because he's such a good lad," he said.
"I'm always ready to jump on him if there's any red flags, particularly with those younger players because you can feel you've arrived when you haven't yet.
"I think it's 100 league games when you can say you're a Football League player.
"By that point everything has happened, the last-minute winner, you've cost your team a game, played in all conditions.
"Until he gets to that stage, he hasn't arrived.
"If there's to be a next contract it's still a learning situation for Dan, and one that earns him the right to go on and be a key player in our squad as his maturity and experience develops."