After watching Sunderland beat Hull on Saturday following a horrifically abject run that saw relegation mathematically confirmed was as infuriating as it was enjoyable. Obviously it’s great to see us win again, but watching the enthusiasm and energy of Didier Ndong and George Honeyman in midfield had me lamenting the lack of it in recent months. That being said, I’d still argue that finishing the season as strong as possible is important in itself. The Championship – as everyone knows – can be a lottery to get out of, and going into the new season with momentum could be vital.
A conversation I had with a Nottingham Forest fan following their final-day survival on Sunday is an example of just how open the league is. He even tipped his hat to the above point, remarking that the beauty of the Championship is that it’s the only league in the world where you could survive on the final day of the season and genuinely believe you could be in with a chance of promotion the next. To a certain extent it might seem a bit of an airy statement, but couple one or two astute additions with a season-long, fully-fit Britt Assombalonga, and you’d have to believe Forest could be troubling the upper echelons of the league in twelve months time.
All this considered, Sunderland really need to be signing the right players over the next couple of months. Under the Chief Scout’s microscope this week is Bristol City’s imposing central defender, Aden Flint.
Over the past two seasons, Bristol City’s Aden Flint has established himself as one of the Championship’s most robust and effective central defenders. His giant chassis and uncompromising style has won him admirers both above and below the Premier League’s trap door, and following another relatively disappointing season for The Robins, it seems likely that Flint will move on this summer.
The first thing that stands out with Flint’s record over the past few seasons is – bizarrely for a central defender – his goal scoring record. He has amassed 25 (twenty five) league goals in the last three seasons, including a staggering 14 in City’s promotion winning season in 2014-15.
To say Flint is a threat from set pieces is an understatement. Remember when you played under 9s football. There was always that one ridiculously oversized child that had their growth spurt five years too soon who bullied the rest of his featherweight opposition. Flint looks a bit like this on a field full of athletic men, not too dissimilar to the way Harry Maguire’s bruising presence has earned him massive critical acclaim at Hull this season.
Like Maguire though, Flint isn’t just an enforcer. He is a leader who first and foremost loves defending, marshaling the backline with an astute positional sense and unwavering bravery. His fitness is also a huge strength – Flint has only missed two games in three grueling, intense football league seasons.
West Brom, West Ham and Derby have been credited with interest in Flint in this week’s gossip columns, but I can’t help but feel that Sunderland would be an ideal fit for him. It’s essential that we sign the right kind of player this summer, and ensure we find the right balance of physicality, guile, youth and experience. Signing players that see Sunderland as a genuine step-up would also be a great way to go about business, and you would imagine Flint ticks that particular category.
The Big Bristolian will cost around £5m, and when considered how much of an ideal fit he is for a side looking to mount a challenge in the Championship, it is an outlay that would be more than justifiable. Having defenders who will defend or die trying is indispensable in such a challenging division, and it’s hard to see a more suitable addition than Flint when it comes to having that particular base covered.