Sunderland U23s captain Tom Beadling has had to wait for what seems like a lifetime for an opportunity to impress in ‘proper’ football.
An incredibly short spell with Bury last year aside, the Barrow-born defender-cum-midfielder has been restricted to playing U23s football at a time when other lads from his age group are just starting to earn their opportunities in the first team squad.
With the end of his contract with Sunderland looming, the opportunity to play regularly in the Scottish Championship under the stewardship of a mackem legend - ‘Magic’ Allan Johnston - was one he just couldn’t pass up, as he revealed in a conversation with Dunfermline Press upon his signing:
I just need to get out there and play first-team football. That was my aim from the start and that’s what I’ve done. I’m looking for regular games and to really establish myself, so fingers crossed I can do that here.
I’ve been looking to get out somewhere and play some games, and this is the perfect place to do that, so I can’t wait to get started.
And, despite playing only three games, it would be fair to say that Beadling has grasped his opportunity with both hands in a bid to prove himself all over again.
I noted with intrigue that a popular Dunfermline fan page, “The Dunfermline Way”, had named Beadling as their player of the month in his first few weeks with the club.
For such an inexperienced young player to make a decent first impression with the supporters of his new club is commendable - and, in my quest to find out more, I collared Ben Crawford from ‘Pars Review’ to hear of how the defender has performed since arriving.
RR: So - Tom Beadling. How’s he doing at Dunfermline? I noticed he received your player of the month award...
PR: Tom’s had a decent start to his Dunfermline career, albeit we have only had 3 games to judge him in so far due to the bad weather up here! He’s settled in well in the midfield role, taking up a more defensive part in a 3-man midfield which is making us a more resolute outfit. I awarded him the Player of the Month for his debut goal against Morton, as well as some solid performances in consecutive 0-0 draws.
RR: Sunderland are crying out at the moment for defenders and people have mentioned Beadling’s name around the subject but I hear he’s played both attacking and defensive midfield. How comfortable does he look in that role?
PR: I wouldn’t say Beadling is a natural defender, definitely looks more of a central midfielder who can be deployed in both attacking and defensive roles. He doesn’t have much pace in the midfield, but he adds that extra bit of mobility that we’ve lacked for a couple of months and has filled an area that both the management and fans were aware needed to be addressed. He looks comfortable in the defensive midfield role, with the odd licence to get up the park and join in if we are dominating play.
RR: It’s not yet known what his future holds beyond this season, but do you think you might have a chance of keeping him at the club?
PR: I would say the jury is out on us looking to keep him past this summer (if he were to leave Sunderland). Our manager, ex Sunderland legend Allan Johnston is currently under a bit of scrutiny from the fans with many thinking he may be let go at the end of the season. That would probably put Tom’s future with us in doubt but if Johnston stays on into next season then I’d imagine he’d be willing at looking to bring in Tom on a more permanent basis as he has praised him on a few occasions since his arrival, whilst also stating that he still has bits to learn.
RR: How have the fans taken to him - what seems to be the consensus?
PR: As previously stated, with only three games played since his arrival it’s been pretty hard to form a solid opinion on our January arrivals as of yet. However, the fans do realise that the midfield has improved since the arrival of Tom and the other January signings. They have made us more of a unit, we’re conceding far less goals and tending to dominate midfield more and not be overrun in the area of the pitch that Tom oversees. With a bit more game time and experience under his belt, I think Tom will be a good acquisition for us.