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Fan Focus: Getting To Know Will Buckley

Just who is Will Buckley? What will the winger, signed from Brighton & Hove Albion, bring to Gus Poyet's side? We caught up with Brighton fan site @NorthStandChat and Albion enthusiasts @Sheebo4 and @JamesAlbion_ to get their views on Sunderland's latest acquisition.

Charlie Crowhurst

So – Will Buckley. Just what exactly will he bring to the table for Sunderland?

NSC: The need for a physio who specialises in dodgy hamstrings. When you have that sorted though, you'll have an exciting wide man who can chip in with his fair share of goals too.

Sheehan: It's very difficult to say as there are two different Will Buckleys. He's been here for three seasons & for the first year and a half he was a hugely impressive - a fast, skillful & intelligent winger with pace to burn. He has since lost his way a bit and has always suffered majorly with hamstring injuries. He seems to have lost the confidence to beat players and, most importantly , seems to have lost a yard of pace.

James: Buckley is a winger with plenty of pace and skill. As you may have seen from Youtube clips and highlights he is a player who very much enjoys running at defenders, looking to provide the forwards with service into the box. Under Gus Poyet he provided the Albion with plenty of goals - he's calm in front of goal, a trait that not all wingers have. He works hard and will track back and defend, which I believe will prove important in the Premier League when coming up against some of the best attacking players in the world.

I’ve read that Buckley’s form suffered once Poyet left Brighton – do you subscribe to that feeling?

NSC: His form or his fitness or maybe just his mojo - it's hard to tell. He hasn't been as effective as we know he can be for quite some time - maybe Poyet knows how to get the best out of him, maybe he doesn't give it 100% any more for fear of injury or maybe he's been deflated at being linked with Premier League clubs for a while but not getting his chance. I guess we'll all know soon enough.

Sheehan: Yes, although it had probably dipped six months before Poyet's departure. It's purely down to injury issues - he cannot play regularly it seems.

James: Yes, it's probably true that since Gus left Buckley’s performance levels dropped. I believe this to be mainly due to his constant injury troubles. In his time at the Albion he has endured multiple hamstring injuries, which meant he was in and out of the team last season. During Poyet’s time at Brighton he showed a lot of faith in Buckley, describing him as a "Ten million pound player" who was vital in Brighton’s first top 6 finish in the Championship. Under Oscar Garcia, Buckley failed to produce the same level of performance he brought to the team while playing under Gus.Much like Liam Bridcutt, I feel that Poyet is the best man to get the full potential from Buckley and I’m sure with the license to get forward, the winger can flourish at the top level.

The reported fee that Brighton will receive for the player is around £2.5m – is that about right? Is that enough money to replace him adequately?

NSC: There is a belief that out and out wide men don't really fit into Sami Hyypia's game plan as he prefers fullbacks pushing right up to provide attacking width. It's too early to know on that. We had been heavily linked with Huddersfield's Adam Clayton who would seem a better attacking fit for Hyypia but he has literally, as I type, signed for Middlesbrough. We're not having the best of transfer windows thus far.

Sheehan: It's difficult to say as I don't know which Will Buckley you'll get. Gus valued him at ten million a few years ago but we all know Gus likes to exaggerate! That seems a fair fee for both clubs, although this deal is much better for us than the deal we got from you guys for Bridcutt, as I feel he's worth far more than the four million we were paid.

James: If you'd asked me this question a couple of seasons back I would have instantly responded with ‘NO’. However, due to his injury troubles and his loss of form, I would say that £2.5m is a very fair price for both clubs - although, Albion will not receive that full figure as Watford have a 15% sell on clause from when we signed Buckley back in 2011. It's a great piece of business by Sunderland for a player who is only twenty-four years old.

It’s no secret that Buckley has had his injury problems – how much has him being in and out of the team affected both Brighton and Buckley’s form?

NSC: We've seen him be almost unplayable on occasion - giving some opposing fullbacks a torrid time. He can beat them with trickery and he can push the ball past them and run past them as if they are standing still. On top of creativity he scores as well, most notably on the opening day of our new Amex home three years ago when he came off the bench and scored both goals to win us the game when 2-1 down. This still makes hairs stand up.

Sheehan: It's been a massive issue, sadly. We've rarely seen him play more than one game in a week and he very rarely plays for ninety minutes.

James: I sympathise a lot with Buckley, as injuries meant that he had to endure a frustrating stop start season last year. In our first few seasons at the AMEX he was by far one of our best players and, without him, we certainly lacked his pace and skill going forward last season. Had he stayed fit over the course of the last two seasons I have no doubt that he'd already have earned a move to a Premier League club by now.

Do you feel Buckley is ready to play top flight football? My guess is that’s he’s being brought in to provide cover and competition to the likes of Adam Johnson.

NSC: On his day, yes. In the moneyed world of the Premier League, for a modest outlay you are getting someone who can come off the bench and change a game for you.

Sheehan: Honestly? No. A few years ago there was no question at all that he was ready to play in the top flight, but I don't think so nowadays. You'll need a good medical team and he'll need to be kept motivated if he is to be a success at Sunderland.

James: Buckley has all the traits and the attitude needed to compete at the top level. I see Will as a similar winger to Johnson - Buckley's pace and height make him a great tool to come on and change a game when needed. When you know you might not be a first team regular its important that you show a good attitude and that's something that Buckley certainly has. Throughout Buckley’s time at Brighton he's always given 100% and, I guess, that's the least you can expect from a new player. Back in January there was interest from Sunderland and many fans expected him to leave then but he came out publicly and said there was no reason for him to leave, which eased any fears that the fans had.

What would you say that Buckley’s main strengths were? He looks fairly big and agile from what I’ve seen.

NSC: His pace - if he still has it, and we're not sure as well as the ability to not waste the ball when he gets himself into a good position.

Sheehan: Pace, pace and more pace combined with pure skill. He often does things you've never seen before with a football - he's favourite is when he scoops the ball over the head of the full back and runs around them to retrieve it. Bizarre, but very clever!

James: Buckley stands at around six foot tall and this is without doubt a strength of his when coming up against the bigger and stronger full backs. Despite being taller than the average winger he still remains very agile on the ball and at his best goes past the opposition players with ease. Buckley has great skill and ball control - even when running at full pace he is able to keep the ball close to his feet. When running with the ball he will often look to cut back from the right hand side either to deliver a cross or take a shot at goal.

He’s played 220 career games and is only 24 years old, and the Premier League schedule is less testing on the body than perhaps the Football League is with playing less games. Do you think that will aid Buckley?

NSC: From what we've seen, it doesn't seem like he's ever going to be a 46 game a season, 90 minutes a match player so a less intensive schedule is certainly not going to do any harm.

Sheehan: I don't expect he'll be a regular at Sunderland, so it should help.

James: Playing in forty-odd games a season is a big ask for a player like Buckley, due to his injury history and the way he works his socks off constantly for ninety minutes. Brighton's training facilities prior to last season were not the greatest but, with Sunderland's Academy of light, I’m sure his injuries can be managed better.

Which position would you say is his best, and who can you see Buckley working well with?

NSC: Wide right, although he has always fancied himself as an out and out striker where he'd look to get behind the defence running out to through balls. And as already mentioned, he tends to have a good finish on him too.

Sheehan: Right wing is where he should play, no questions about it. I think he'll link up well with any right back that is keen to push high up the pitch to aid the attacks.

James: Buckley played probably his best football when alongside Vicente - a player like that alongside him will help to show his best side. Vicente was an attacking midfielder who liked to draw defenders to the ball, which left space in behind for Buckley to expose. Buckley’s natural and best position has always been as an attacking right winger who will long to get to the byline and out crosses in for the other attackers. Under Poyet, if things weren’t quite happening for Will, Gus would often switch Buckley to the left flank, allowing him to cut back on his right foot and get shots away at goal. At Sunderland I can see him linking well with Connor Wickham - aside from that, having his former manager and Liam Bridcutt around will help him to settle in quickly.

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