RR: Laurens De Bock spent five years with Club Brugge, playing on 177 occasions. Overall how do you sum up his time at your club and how he performed?
SS: We bought him from Belgian side Lokeren for €3.5m, which was a pretty high fee for a defender and a transfer between two Belgian clubs. At that time, De Bock was a promising left back, also playing for Belgium U21. We were happy that we could sign him before our main rivals Anderlecht did, who were also interested. So, expectations were high.
In the beginning it looked like it was a typical ‘too fast, too soon’ story for a young lad moving to a big club. It’s hard to say, but overall I think we can conclude it was disappointing, despite a good period during our title winning season in 2015/16.
When you saw him playing you always had the idea he was holding back and that he never took a risk, just played it safe, even when he had a chance to make a run on the wing or to make an early cross.
RR: In De Bock’s last eighteen months with Brugges he wasn’t always a regular in the side - why was that?
SS: Some small injures in 2016 and 2017. In the last months of 2016, after an injury, he was replaced by Dion Cools. But De Bock took his place in the starting eleven back after New Year untill the end of April, during the Play Offs. He was not playing very well - nor did the team in the race for the title - and after a head collision with an opponent he was again injured and replaced for the last five games by a youth player, Ahmed Touba.
After that season, Ivan Leko came in as the new manager. He used a totally different formation, 3-5-2, with three centre backs and wingers, who also had to take an important part in our attacking style of play, which was not a role for De Bock.
RR: When he left for Leeds United you received around £1.5m for his services. What did you think of that business at the time? Were you glad or disappointed to see him leave?
SS: To be honest, that was a big surprise. Nobody expected that we would get that amount of money for a player who was fading away, not even being on the bench. Maybe even more surprisingly was that a club like Leeds, playing for promotion to Premier League, bought him. A great deal from our perspective.
RR: What sort of player is he?
SS: An out and out left back - his set of skills are pure defensively, so don’t expect him in an offensive wing-back role. But he’s a decent defender.
RR: And what about his personal attributes - is he loyal? hardworking? Is he a good communicator? Is he a leader?
SS: He never complained, always did his best for the team, but sometimes he had a lack of concentration. He’s a soldier who executes what a manager asks him to do on the pitch, but nothing extra or special.
RR: It’s no secret that De Bock has struggled to make an impact at Leeds, but do you still think he can be a success with Sunderland in League One?
SS: Hard to say. I assume Sunderland have set promotion to the Championship as a goal for this season. If they were looking for an offensive wing-back, I doubt that De Bock will be their man. If they were looking for a decent defender, I think there’s a chance that he can pull it of.
Nevertheless, also for his personal career, it’s a last chance to make something out of it. So I hope he can pick up his level from when he was a young, promising lad in Lokeren or from the time he won the title with Club Brugge in 2016.
RR: He spent last season on loan with Oostende - how much do you know about how he did there? Was he viewed as a success on his return to Belgium?
SS: Nothing specially noticeable. But I think it was necessary for him to play games after some difficult seasons..