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TRANSFER LATEST: Sunderland close to signing of Championship midfielder - just how good is he?

Sunderland have had a bid accepted for Reading midfielder George Evans. In an attempt to find out just how good he is, we spoke to our friends over at Reading Fansite ‘The Tilehurst End’ - and they’ve given him a fairly sound endorsement.

Reading v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Play Off: Second Leg Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

RR: So - George Evans. What’s he like?

TE: A hard-working, honest pro. As far as character goes, he’s one of the quieter players you’ll come across in the game - he’s rarely put up by the club to talk to the press and isn’t too talkative on social media.

He’s got no attitude problems that we’ve heard of, so he’ll be a far cry from some of the… ahem.. unreliable players you’ve had at the Stadium of Light in recent years.

RR: Why do you think Reading are allowing him to leave?

TE: We’ve got too many central midfielders basically. Even with him leaving - in addition to at least another four departures from that position this summer - there are too many names for Paul Clement to pick from. He’s not properly nailed down regular football in his two and a half years at Reading (despite 30 odd games in 2016/17) and was overlooked by both Jaap Stam and Clement last season. With all that in mind, the reported ‘six figure fee’ for a player out of contract in 2019 is good business.

Manchester City U21 v Tottenham Hotspur U21: Barclays U21 Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

RR: What’s his best role in the team?

TE: Playing deep in front of the back four, although it’s still not obvious whether he’s better sitting there on his own or in a double pivot - you could use him in either role to be honest.

He certainly can’t play higher up the pitch, but he does do a good job slotting into the defence. Evans has gone into the central spot in a back three on occasion, although you could just about get away with playing him as a centre half.

RR: Sunderland need athletic players, particularly in midfield. Would you say that Evans was that sort of player?

TE: He’s got stamina rather than outright pace or strength. You can expect him to cover a lot of ground in the midfield, which he did expertly in the play-off semi-final games against Fulham in 2017.

Stam gave him the job of man-marking Tom Cairney across the pitch in both games - suffice to say that you’d have been forgiven for not noticing that Cairney was playing.

RR: What would you say his strengths were?

TE: He doesn’t really excel at any one thing to be honest, but his stamina and tactical awareness are good, and he also shows commendable character and work-rate.

Reading v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Play Off: Second Leg Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

RR: And his weaknesses?

TE: For a deep-lying midfielder, he doesn’t influence the game enough either or on the ball or defensively.

When in possession, he doesn’t dictate the play that well as his passing range seems to be pretty basic.

Similarly, he’s not always that imposing as a screen in front of the defence, both physically and with sometimes sloppy positioning.

RR: For any sunderland supporter doubting this piece of business, what would you say to them?

TE: When it comes to replacing Paddy McNair, which I presume is what you’re trying to do with this signing, you probably couldn’t do too much better than getting George Evans.

Some of my previous comments may have seemed harsh, but you’ve got to take them in the context of a player who’s not had regular game time in the Championship.

At League One level he’s more than capable of developing into a very solid midfielder - he just needs that first team experience to hone his all-round game. He’s got the potential, and at a transfer fee of less than £1 million you’ve got a bargain.

If you asked me to predict his development at Sunderland, I’d say he’s likely to fit in at the club well, adapt to League One nicely and be a good option for you when you come back up.

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