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Report links Sunderland with summer swoop for high-flying League One duo, but are they any good?

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Sunderland have today been linked with a pair of League One hotshots that Chris Coleman personally went to watch play on Saturday, but are they any good?

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Curious observers will have noted this past weekend that a post cropped up on social media of Chris Coleman attending Shrewsbury’s game against AFC Wimbledon with Wales international Dave Edwards.

Coleman pledged his future to Sunderland only recently and with one eye on the summer transfer window, it’s believed that he was out and about doing a bit of scouting in Shropshire and taking in a game of football on his day off.

This has led local newspaper the Shropshire Star to allege that Coleman was at New Meadow to take a closer look at Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala, two of Salop’s more promising talents.

Nsiala is a former Everton youth product and recently played for Grimsby and Hartlepool United, the club which he left in order to join up with the Shrews during the 2017 January transfer window. At 6ft4 he’s a towering presence, and whilst his primary position is in the centre of the defence he’s also able to play at right back.

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Nolan - who also came through at Everton - is another man that played under current Shrewsbury boss Paul Hurst at Grimsby Town, originally emerging from non-league football having gained notoriety with Lincoln City and earning himself a cap for the England C team in the process.

Nolan is incredibly highly rated and has caught the attention of a number of Championship clubs in recent times, but with the 25-year old tied down to a long-term contract it’s understood that it’ll take a fairly hefty sum of money to pique Shrewsbury’s interest in selling him.

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As usual though we can’t profess to know a great deal about either man, so we’ve drafted in someone that does. Our old friend Glyn Price from top Shrewsbury fanzine ‘Blue & Amber’ dropped by Roker Report HQ for a chat about what both men are like, what they could potentially bring and our chances of signing them should Chris Coleman choose to pursue them in the summer.


RR: So... Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala are two names that Sunderland fans probably aren’t particularly familiar with. Just how good are they?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: Very very good. Nolan is the stand out player this season at Shrewsbury, a player who likes to get the ball in central midfield, dictate games, wont shirk a challenge and has a great array of passing. Comparatively hes like Jack Rodwell when he was good and could play football. He also has a knack for important goals. He’s the most outstanding midfield player we have had since Ryan Woods (and hes constantly getting rave reviews in the Championship) and will likely sweep up the player of the season awards despite huge competition for those particular accolades.

Like Nolan, Toto has been outstanding too. We have a rock solid spine, and he’s a massive part of that. He’s a strong dominant centre back who likes to head and block everything, but is also comfortable in possession and recently has even been displaying epic long ball distribution. When he first came he always had a mistake in him but hes come on massively under Hurst and is basically undroppable.

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RR: How have they fared so far this season?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: As said above, brilliantly. Both will feature in the battle for end of season awards, and both should make the League One team of the season if there’s any justice in the world - though it will be the usual parade of Blackburn and Wigan players no doubt! You should have a good look at our defensive record to understand how good Toto and Sadler have been. We are so hard to score against and that means we constantly nick games by the odd goal. Toto is also a huge threat from corners which has been a handy trait to have, too. Nolan has been excellent all season and the most impressive thing is he’s rarely dropped off a high level of hard work and constant closing down all season. Hes metronomic.

RR: Do you think that Shrewsbury would cash in if a decent offer came along?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: Hard to say. Toto only has another year left so a big deal from someone is harder to turn down for a club like us and Nolan has two years left. Either way, it would all depend on what happens in the last 9 games this season. We could win a cup at Wembley and get into the Championship. Really, would they want to leave or have one season still where they are and continue to prove all the critics wrong? There is a chance that not just these two will be players we receive offers for too. If something big comes in for another player then the pressure to sell these two would be less.

As a betting man, come the start of next season, regardless of the division we are in, I can see them both still in Blue and Amber, but agents talk and we have lost many a player over the summer we thought we could keep.

The final point I would add is, we aren’t in debt, and we don’t actually need money to stay afloat like a lot of teams at this level. We aren’t Bury or Walsall where selling is a necessity. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

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RR: What sort of valuation would you put on them?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: Another tough question.

Nolan clearly more with the length left on his contract. Woods went to Brentford for about 1.2 million and had less on his deal so we could hard ball someone for £1.5m-1.7m and add ons. With Toto, it would be sell this summer or lose him for nothing next year, but still think 500-700k with more add ons again (as we did for Ryan Woods and Connor Goldson in recent years) could be something that gets a deal done.

One final thing to add is both lads owe the club and Paul Hurst a lot. Both had careers going nowhere and both have only been here about a year. I honestly can’t see them sh*tting on the club and Hursty over a deal. There are always good and bad times to leave a club and that will be dictated by how the last few games of the season go.

RR: What sort of qualities do they bring to the team as opposed to individually?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: Nolan is your steadfast midfield player you can rely on each week to work his balls off, get stuck in, but when he gets the ball show quick feet to skip away from challenges open the play up and deliver a ball that starts a counter attack or put someone in. He’s pretty constant at it too and as a result has walked away with most man of the match awards this season. He’s a chirpy scouser too so always good for dressing room cammeraderie.

Toto brings you a defensive wall. He’s hard and strong, committed to his tackles and has the ability to get the ball out without resorting to long punts. Another key characteristic is his ability to improve. He’s come on so much in the last 18 months and a new manager with new skills and techniques to learn from might make him even better. It’s come quite late on in his career but he’s certainly now capable of playing in the Championship with another experienced player alongside him to keep learning from.

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RR: What would you say their weaknesses are as players?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: Honestly, there are two of the best we have had for a long time so this is pretty tough.

Nolan can over commit to tackles which either gets him hurt or sent off, and his finishing could be better. Hes been carrying a knock all season too which is impressive considering how he’s played. Maybe some long term injury concerns? He had a spell mid-season where he could not buy a goal and missed a string of decent chances.

Toto can be Toto, once every 10 games he will inexplicably lose the flight of a ball that gets us into trouble - but thankfully he usually recovers the situation with his quick reflexes! I also suspect that he’s a confidence player. This season everything has gone very very well but would be interested to see him in a team getting webbed each week. I suspect he might be the one people point fingers at in that situation. He has on a couple of occasions struggled with the pace of players, but to be honest he’s pretty quick too. At League One level he’s pretty bullet proof in all honesty.

RR: Despite Sunderland’s perilous position, do you think they’d be tempted to join us?

Blue & Amber Fanzine: That depends on a lot of factors - mainly our respective league positions next year, competition from other clubs and the pull of decent wages and signing on fees.

They would be tempted though I’m sure - it’d be a chance to play for a bigger club, at the Stadium of Light with a passionate fan base and a bigger infrastructure. Who wouldn’t be tempted? Just knowing the lads this season, they seem good guys and as I said they owe Shrewsbury a lot, and think that might play a part in what happens.

I have to say personally we have built our best team for a generation and it would horrible for us for other clubs to come along now and pick it apart. It will probably happen, but Shrews fans have enjoyed this season like no other for a long time. If they end up leaving, I suspect they will with good wishes and heavy hearts as we truly built something magical this season, the sort of lightning in a bottle you rarely see at a club like ours.

So please if you can, do not print or publish any of the above, they are rubbish really!

Go and buy Nick Powell and Bradley Dack instead!