When we lost 2-1 to Sheffield United at the start of September, Brendan Galloway had to that point featured in six of our first seven games, only missing out against Carlisle in the second round of the League Cup when Bryan Oviedo made his much-anticipated return from injury.
In his last outing in that game against Chris Wilder’s high-flying Blades, the Everton loanee endured a torrid time and, knowing that Oviedo’s return to full fitness was imminent, his performance felt like something of a final straw.
He’s barely been seen since.
Bar the odd outing for our U23s side - the last of which came in a dead-rubber Checkatrade Trophy game away at Grimsby Town - Galloway has been largely consigned to a role away from the first team.
Though he’s returned to the first-team bench for each of Chris Coleman’s games in charge, it would be fair to assume that was mainly due to the fact that we have so many injuries, particularly in defence.
It does make me wonder though about whether there is any way back for Galloway, particularly now that there is a new manager in charge.
Galloway, admittedly, looked pretty awful in each and every game that he played at the start of the season.
He looked weak, devoid of natural ability and he was far too easily beaten on a weekly basis. In fact, I suggested at the time that he was maybe being played out of position because he doesn’t strike you as a natural, modern day full back - he’s fairly big in stature and he’s not gifted with an abundance of pace.
I do wonder if our recent change in circumstances could actually benefit Galloway and his chances of a fresh start here.
It’s quite hard to ignore the fact that Galloway was the more heralded of the pair of defenders that we nabbed on loan from Everton in the summer. In fact, Everton supporters couldn’t get their head around just how badly Galloway was performing for us - the club and supporters have high hopes for him on the back of seeing him play for their first team and for the England U21s side, and seemed genuinely perplexed that he was failing so badly here at Sunderland.
Could it just be that being thrown in to the deep end at a badly struggling club, perhaps even playing out of position, is what caused him to perform so badly? And, with each and every passing game, his confidence as a young player worsened increasingly to the point that he lost all focus once he stepped out on to the pitch?
I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.
Personally I believe that every single player now needs to be afforded a fresh start with Coleman now through the door.
If, as we suspect, our new manager eventually switches to his preferred three-at-the-back system as the weeks and months draw on, there may well be a place in the Sunderland side for Galloway yet.
Galloway clearly has ability. You don’t find yourself playing first team football for Everton when still in your teens if you don’t have the potential to play at a decent level of football - and, because of this, I’d be keen to let the lad have another stab at proving himself here at some point down the line.
Sometimes you’ve just got to treat young players more carefully.
It’s about developing the player over time, allowing them the opportunity to make mistakes, to step away from the team when pressure is building upon them and then re-introducing them further down the line once the atmosphere about the club improves and confidence is higher.
There’s a wider argument to be had here, that we should focus our attention on players within our own youth system instead of developing loanees from other clubs that will only go on to leave us come the end of season anyways.
And I do, to a varying degree, subscribe to that - I wish that Sunderland would give more first-team opportunities to the likes of Denver Hume and Tom Beadling, two defenders within our ranks that stand a genuine chance of making it, provided they are afforded ample chances to go out and prove themselves whether that be in our team or away on loan elsewhere.
But, we have a very small squad, and Coleman has to make best use of the players that he has at his disposal between now and January at least.
There may well be a way back yet for Brendan Galloway, but he’s got to ask himself why he’s barely featured for almost three months - why he lost his place in the side in the first place.
If he’s prepared to knuckle down and really give his all for this football club both on the training pitch and off it, I have no doubt that Coleman will find a way to utilise him at some point.
The alternative, of course, is that he stagnates here, wastes a year of his development not playing first team football. We might even be able to send Galloway back to Everton once the transfer window re-opens. But, lets be honest, it wouldn’t reflect well upon Brendan if he’s so unwanted at his loan club that they send him back. He doesn’t want to return back to Merseyside as a failure - and nor should Sunderland, or Everton for that matter.
Here’s hoping that Galloway can begin to prove to the new Sunderland manager - and us supporters - exactly the sort of credentials that brought him to the table in the first place. He’s patently not without talent, but his confidence could do with a boost and if he can find it within himself to really knuckle down and start from scratch, there may well be time left for the player to prove himself at Sunderland yet.
I for one would love to see it. I take no joy from seeing him fail, and nor should anyone else. He’s a young lad at the end of the day trying to make his way in the game, and if he can forget the past and begin to impress we’ll surely reap the rewards as the season progresses.