RR: How would you assess Declan John’s time as a Rangers player?
James: Declan’s time at Rangers came at a tumultuous time in the club’s recent history and there’s a real feeling we never got to see the best of him at Ibrox. There were flashes of his ability but it was nowhere near consistent enough.
RR: How was the news that John had arrived from Cardiff received when he signed in 2017? Did fans have big hopes that he’d be a success, or was he signed to provide back up?
James: His arrival came as a bit of a surprise given Lee Wallace was the captain and first pick left back at the time, but injuries to Wallace would give John a chance to shine.
RR: Were the Rangers supporters disappointed to see him leave, or not?
James: His exit was as much of a surprise as his arrival. Wallace had been struggling with injuries so few expected him to leave quite so suddenly.
RR: What sort of left back is he? Currently, Sunderland employ a 3-4-2-1 system that sees Denver Hume playing as one of the most advanced players in our team, so there’d be an expectancy for him to be regularly involved in our attacks.
James: He’s very much an attacking full-back and Sunderland’s shape should really suit him and allow him to play to his strengths.
RR: John’s career to date has been a faltering one - bar making 20 appearances in the Premier League when a teenager at Cardiff, he’s struggled to make an impression wherever he’s ended up. Now aged 24, he’ll be keen to really make an impression at his next club and give his career the boost that it needs. Do you think that he’s a good fit for Sunderland? Do you think he could earn himself a longer deal here?
James: He’s got a real chance to win a permanent deal at Sunderland and, despite never really kicking on much in recent seasons, has a wealth of experience which should help him thrive at the Stadium of Light. The chance to force his way back to prominence and return to the international fold will no doubt be a big motivator for him too.
RR: I know you’ve probably not seen an awful lot of him recently, but what would you say the main strengths are that he has? What will he bring to our team?
James: Without trying to sound too flippant, he’s a typical modern full-back. He’s comfortable getting forward and always looking to get involved in attacks. His crossing should pose a real threat and will create plenty of opportunities for the forwards.
RR: And what about weaknesses - what areas of his game are lacking, or need improvement? Where might we see Declan John frustrate the Sunderland supporters?
James: As he’s a modern full-back, there are question marks over his defensive capabilities. The Welshman isn’t going to be a blood and guts type defender and there will be some really frustrating moments when he’s caught out of position after bombing forward to help out in attack. This will put a real onus on the central three to keep it tight at the back, but it seems to just be the way of things now.
RR: For anyone not convinced by this signing, what would you say to them?
James: Declan should prove a decent signing for Sunderland and, although he’s not one that will get fans jumping up and down, he’ll be steady without ever excelling. The expectation at Sunderland could also be just what he needs to get his career back on track too.