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Roker Roundup: Dutch defender discusses Sunderland offer after trial last season

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Dutch central defender Wouter Verstraaten has discussed the offer he received from Sunderland last season after spending a week on trial at the Academy of Light.

Roker Roundup 20/21
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Lynch on difficult life as a free agent

Joel Lynch is still a free agent after leaving Sunderland earlier in the year.

The central defender was released at the end of the season, before he had played enough to trigger an extra year option in his contract, and he also trained with Charlton Athletic during their transfer embargo.

Speaking to The Times, Lynch discussed the various offers he has received, from £800 per week to turn out for a League Two club, to a £700,000 net offer from Saudi Arabia and discussions with Melbourne Victory in the A-League.

While he searches for the best offer, Lynch has signed up to LinkedIn to expand his horizons:

I joined LinkedIn a while back to see if I might get some ideas for life after football, business opportunities and some connections in the football world.

It’s been madness, I could talk for hours about what I’ve seen. I must have had an agent on every other day offering something or other.

It seems to be one extreme or another.

The 33-year-old also discussed the difficulties of getting a club during the pandemic, with clubs reluctant to bring in players. Not only due to the salary cap but thanks to the testing schedule already in place:

In normal circumstances, you can train with a League club but obviously they don’t want extra players coming through the doors at the moment with all the testing and so on.

Obviously with salary caps coming in, that’s already changed everything.

Covid has made it a lot more complicated to get training with a club or trials for players. I’m OK. I am 33 and coming towards the end. But I know there are a lot of other younger footballers out there and it’s not easy.

A lot of players live to their means. Suddenly if they aren’t being paid, it’s tough. You’ve been put on this pedestal and it’s gone.

Sunderland v Southend United - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Steven Hadlow/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Trialist discusses Sunderland offer

Sunderland had offered South Shields’ Dutch defender Wouter Verstraaten a contract earlier in the year, after the 24-year-old impressed on trial at the club.

Verstraaten opted to sign a deal with South Shields instead of moving to the Academy of Light. The player was keen to stress to RTL that although he had a ‘great week’ at Sunderland, he believes he can still develop playing in the Northern Premier League:

I had only just started at South Shields, and was suddenly asked from Sunderland if I wanted to do a training internship. I did this immediately. A great training week in which we played a friendly match against Liverpool U23, with the best youth players in the world!

It immediately felt good at Sunderland and in terms of level I felt that I could handle this.

Sunderland offered me a 1-year contract, but South Shields didn’t want to lose me and then came up with a very nice offer. It was a tough choice, but in the end I decided to stay a little longer at South Shields.

I can definitely develop further at this level. I feel at home here, but I am far from finished playing football. There are certainly still great opportunities to come. Actually it has only just started.

Verstraaten recently obtained his Masters Degree but is now fully focused on his professional football career, safe in the knowledge that he can fall back on his education should that career fall short of expectations:

I think I have another seven to eight years to develop myself as a football player. My goal is to play as high as possible in England. If at any point I run up against my limits, I will consider living and working in the Netherlands.

In that respect, I don’t feel any pressure at all, because I know that with my university degrees I can always build a good foundation in the business world. For now I focus entirely on playing football.

Liverpool U23 v Sunderland U23 - Premier League Cup Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Lawrence grateful to Butcher

Ex-Sunderland winger Jamie Lawrence has told Planet Football that a guard in the second of his two prison spells was the catalyst that saved his life.

Lawrence said that the guard believing that he could make it as a professional footballer stopped him from living a life behind bars or even ending up dead:

When I got my second sentence, I thought that crime was all I could do but I had a prison officer who believed I could turn professional. He was pushing the governor, who started letting me out every weekend to play for a semi-professional side.

From there I just grew and grew because someone believed in me and I never wanted to let them down.

It saved my life because I was going down the wrong route. I was getting into a lot of stuff on the road. If it wasn’t for football, I probably wouldn’t be here now. I’d be in prison doing life or I’d be dead. One of the two.

Lawrence now runs his own academy, as well as acting as a fitness coach to the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and he tells Planet Football that leaving prison and moving 300 miles to Sunderland was the best thing that could have happened to him:

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because of all the things I’d been getting up to in London, being 300 miles away was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time.

I can’t speak highly enough of Terry Butcher. I went up there on trial. Everyone knew that I’d come out of prison and some people wouldn’t give you a chance.

I played against Leeds in a reserve team game and the next day he called me into his office and said, ‘You excite me. I’m going to sign you.’ I can’t think him enough really.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Bradford City v Sunderland Photo by Michael Steele/EMPICS via Getty Images