Andrew Nelson has hit the ground running at Dundee in the Scottish Premiership since Sunderland sold him, scoring three goals in three starts for his new club. Was it the correct decision to let him leave before he was given a chance?
Damian Brown says...
It can’t be anything less than a disappointment to see a young man, raised and trained at the expense of the Sunderland AFC academy, sent on his merry way for a minimal fee simply to avoid the likely possibility of losing him for free a few months down the line because we can’t fulfill our end of the bargain.
I feel that this is the right level for Nelson to prove his worth.
It wasn’t so long ago that George Honeyman was making his Premier League debut; that we produced England’s no. 1; that two academy strikers both went on to bigger and better things in Asoro and Maja respectively (although that’s a matter of perspective, but I’m sure theirs is that they’ve taken steps up). The idea that Nelson wouldn’t have been good enough falls short because we never saw him given the same opportunities to shine as any of the aforementioned lads.
To then bring in and develop a player from another club - and a completely unproven one at that - strikes me as short-sighted at best. We don’t know that Nelson would have gone on to become a mainstay in the senior squad and I don’t doubt there are circumstances surrounding his departure that, as ever, we as fans are unaware of. But I personally see this as an indictment of the backroom staff; I think a 6’2” home-grown attacker fighting it out at League One level for his club would be preferable to some random young buck from London just trying to prove he’s worth the wages he’s on.
Arguably, Nelson is further into his development and was something of a known quantity if it came down to the crunch and we needed reinforcements. With Sterling we’ve got a box with a big question mark on it. Is that in any way better?
As I’ve said though this ignores any contractual dispute or personal designs of Nelson himself. All I can say is that if you’re going to spend years and tens of thousands of pounds forging a player, you’d best be ready to use him when the time comes, or at least give him the chance to prove you’ve done right by him.
At best, letting Nelson leave was a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that we would recoup nothing at all without offering him better terms and more playing time, but that in itself is damning. For all the issues the club has had on and off the pitch, developing a sustainable and productive academy should always be at the forefront of our plans for the future.
For whatever reason, the departure of Nelson is not in any way, shape or form a part of that grand design. Decisions like this make me question whether or not we’ve truly left behind the ‘quick patch-up and save the rest of the problems for another day’ mentality that put us in League One in the first place.
I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Nelson, and I for one would be sad to see him succeed without owing us any love or loyalty.
Jack Ford says...
The Andrew Nelson situation is one that has really perplexed me. Given the manager’s clear faith in youth, our fall to League One, and the departure of Maja and Sinclair, I thought he was nailed on to return from Darlington and finally get a chance in our first team.
That this hasn’t happened is possibly more of a business decision than a strictly footballing one in my eyes. The board possibly thought they couldn’t let another talented young player leave on a free, so accepted the offer from Dundee to save themselves another potential embarrassment.
Although we never saw much of Nelson it does strike me as a shame. He’s proven himself as a capable goal scorer at every level he’s been on loan at, and certainly looked good enough to be at least a squad player for ourselves.
Yes, Kaziah Sterling has the better reputation, but given we’ll almost definitely only play him from the bench for this second half of the season, it seems a shame to sell a player that’s come through our academy and replace him with yet another Premier League loan.
But then, maybe Andrew himself had had enough. He may well have made it clear to the management that with Watmore and Wyke ahead of him and Grigg coming in, he saw little chance of getting the football he needed to develop properly.
I for one wish him all the best in what will certainly be a good career, and have been glad to see him get on the scoresheet already for Dundee - even if it leaves me asking “what if?”.
Craig Davies says...
In an ideal world, Sunderland fans would always prefer a home grown, local kid, trained and moulded in our very own academy, over a temporary trainee from another club over whom hangs a giant question mark.
But this isn’t an ideal world. From a sentimental point of view it would have been heartwarming and satisfying to see Nelson succeed at every level until he’s not just banging the manager’s door down, but Jack Ross has already opened it and welcomed his addition to the first team with open arms. It didn’t happen.
We may never know the specific reasons why. Certainly, Nelson has been very unlucky with injuries. His form at Darlington was impressive but the level of league and opposition makes it difficult to make a solid estimation of his ability.
In truth, perhaps Ross has seen him up close, had him watched and monitored and just decided that for the future of the lad, he just needs to play and it was unlikely he’d get that playing time here. For me personally, Ross has managed our young players well this year. He’s shown with Mumba and Kimpioka that he’s got time for and patience with our young pros. On this occasion I’m putting my trust in Ross and support his decision that perhaps Nelson, despite some obvious ability just didn’t have enough for Sunderland moving forward. If Nelson proves Ross wrong, I’m sure Jack will be the first one to congratulate him and admit his error. Good luck to Nelson, but we move on.
James Nickels says...
It’s always disappointing as a fan base to see your club developing other teams’ young talent rather than our own. Kazaiah Sterling will inevitably be ahead of Benji Kimpioka in the pecking order too.
However, Nelson was out of contract at the end of the season - so we aren’t really developing for the long-term future with either Sterling or Nelson.
Essentially, the decision comes down to ability. Is Sterling better than Nelson? It’s hard to say. The former has hardly any first-year experience under his belt, and the latter picked up a few injuries whenever his chance to impress came along. Sterling looks a little lightweight for League One, and Nelson is even more so.
At the end of the day, I’d love to have kept Nelson and in an ideal world watch him progress just as Joel Asoro and Josh Maja have over the last two years. But there are underlying fitness and long-term talent issues at this level.
Sterling is highly rated at Spurs, the fresh face will provide impetus to the squad and further competition, and he has the genuine lightning quick pace to offer a wholly different option.
Mark Carrick says...
In the past we’ve perhaps moved young players on a little too quickly. Martyn Waghorn stands out, as does John Egan.
Egan was highly rated but suffered awful injuries as a youngster emerging onto the first team scene. Suffering a broken leg on loan to Bradford in 2012, Egan was released two years later having never made his debut.
Fast forward a few years and Andrew Nelson is the latest Academy product we may rue leaving the club. A successful loan spell at Falkirk, where the youngster scored 4 and created 3 goals in 12 games, left many wondering if Joel Asoro’s summer move would open the door for his emergence.
A fractured cheekbone had cut his loan spell short and now a foot injury during pre-season saw Nelson struggle to even make it onto the training pitch.
Three months on, Nelson made an impressive loan move to Darlington to build match fitness. Six goals and two assists in five games tells its own story. With Maja likely to leave the club, the scene was set in January for Nelson to finally stake his claim.
Has it come down to a patchy injury record? Or perhaps a contract soon to expire? Or was it simply the management didn’t think Nelson would be a suitable long-term option, either in the League One run-in or at Championship level?
Maybe a combination of all, but seeing Nelson scoring for fun at Dundee does leave you wondering ‘what if...?’ once more.