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Sunderland closing in on the signing on Northern Ireland international defender - but who is he?

Sunderland are close to the signing of transfer-listed defensive utility man Tom Flanagan from Burton Albion. Not sure who he is? Well, let us indulge you...

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So... who is he?

When one versatile Irish defender leaves, another one arrives.

Tom Flanagan is the epitome of a squad player - he fits in just about anywhere across the back four, and ‘does a job’ wherever he’s required... which is nice, eh?

In truth it’s unlikely that Flanagan will pull up any trees at Sunderland but at a time when we need so many adaptable players its not as though we can turn our noses up at someone that has proven themselves as capable of operating just about anywhere that his manager requires him to be.

He’s a big, thin lad and at 6ft2 he’s no midget - but his attributes are perhaps more suited to that of a full-back as opposed to a central defender.

Flanagan was placed on the transfer window towards the end of last season and, as his manager Nigel Clough explained, it wasn’t because he had done anything wrong, but because Burton have plenty of options in defensive positions and the Northern Irishman is perhaps the most expendable with him having just a year left on his deal:

He’s got a year left, but we have to free something up somewhere. With John Brayford, if Damien McCrory stays, and Ben Turner stepping in at left-back as he did, I don’t think we can carry all three.

He’s made 57 Championship appearances in the last two years, and he did well.

He had a new lease of life, almost, at full-back. The reasoning for bringing him back was he covers you all the way across the back four. That’s still the case, but we have to make cuts somewhere and unfortunately, that’s one of them.

He hasn’t done anything wrong greatly. It’s just that, as I say, if Damien signs, it’ll be Brayford and Damien who’ll be our full-backs.

So - a defender about to enter his prime age, on the cheap, with some canny experience of playing in the Football League? Makes sense I suppose as a backup option, particularly since he’s adept as both a full back and a central half.

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Who has he played for before, and how did he do?

He’s been about a bit, has wor Tom, and he’ll arrive on Wearside having spent time playing for a large amount of Football League clubs - experience which stands him in good stead.

He made his debut as an 18-year old for MK Dons in 2010 and went on to make over 40 appearances for them in just under five years, interspersed by lengthy loan spells with Kettering Town, Gillingham, Barnet, Stevenage and Plymouth Argyle.

He was then released by The Dons in 2015 and signed for Burton Albion, where he has remained a mainstay in the side for much of the last three seasons - albeit mainly as backup in various positions.

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Are there any other clubs in for him?

As far as we know, no, nobody. The Burton Mail alleged earlier this month that there had been no approaches to that point for the defender, though that could have changed since.

Flanagan used to play with another new signing, Jon McLaughlin, and he’ll be relishing the opportunity to link back up with his old teammate.

Any decent video footage?

Erm... nope.

So, instead, here he is talking about how proud he was to make his international debut for Northern Ireland in their game with New Zealand in February of last year - a game which saw Sunderland U23 defender Sam Brotherton feature amongst the substitutes for the All Whites.

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