Phil West says...
This is an interesting question!
There’s no doubt that our U23’s team is certainly improving and that the players are developing at an impressive rate, but the possibility of us bringing in a former Sunderland player to work with them and perhaps play in the odd match, to provide a bit of experience, is something that might well be worth considering.
After considering the potentially obvious names like Grant Leadbitter & Lee Cattermole (heavy on the nostalgia, I admit), I think we would probably look a little bit left-field, if this was a possibility we were to explore further down the line.
To that end, how about promoting Aiden McGeady into the role, assuming that his playing career begins to wind down as this season unfolds? He’s a respected figure within the Sunderland dressing room, with an obvious affinity for the club, and clearly well-regarded by Lee Johnson and the Sunderland hierarchy. Could he begin to transition into a player/coaching role beyond this campaign, and offer our up-and-coming players some guidance as they begin to make their way in the game? Experience-wise, he’s been there and done it at an elite level, and that kind of knowledge could be really useful.
He strikes me as a thoughtful kind of person, the type of player for whom coaching may well prove to be a logical next step, and I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that his Sunderland career will continue in the years to come, albeit in a different role.
Tom Albrighton says...
If Sunderland were to approach anyone in regards to such a role, my main man would be none other than Joe Ledley.
Currently a free agent, Ledley has had a good career in football with vast experience - with over 400 professional club games and 77 international caps.
What makes Ledley an ideal candidate for this role? Well, there’s more than one reason - firstly, Ledley has played for a wide range of clubs across a host of divisions including playing Champions League football for Celtic and Premier League football at Crystal Palace.
His positive attitude and by all accounts infectious personality would be welcome within a youthful dressing room too, as evidenced with glowing appraisals from his international stints with Wales. From these stints too, Ledley has played with every variation of player from unknown upstarts to world-renowned superstars, another string to his bow.
Another compelling reason is Ledleys ability, known as a composed & technical player, Ledley was never one to shy away from confrontation either and by all accounts demanded similar from those around him. This technical ability and tactical know-how would likely be crucial to aid Lee Johnson in perpetuating Sunderland’s new philosophy through the levels. Because of these factors, Ledley became a regular and a linchpin in arguably one of Wales’ greatest ever sides.
With ability, tactical nous and an intimate knowledge of the game, coupled with unbridled enthusiasm for the game, Joe Ledley could well be a left-field but astute appointment for the role.
Rich Speight says...
If this is something that the club could consider doing right away, then we’ve really got to be looking at a player who is well respected within the game, who might be looking to get into coaching, and potentially be available now.
The one name that leaps out at me is David Nugent, a bloke who knows the Championship and Premier League inside out, and worked his way up to gain an England cap in 2007 - when he came on for 14 minutes against Andorra and nicked a goal off Jermain Defoe.
He once almost joined Sunderland many years back and found himself in search of a League One club this summer after his loan to Tranmere (he came off the bench in the Papa John’s Trophy final against us last season), but wasn’t picked up despite telling the Times that he was willing to drop down the levels ”to prolong a 20-year career spent scoring at all levels”.
A northerner who has played in the north east with Middlesborough and had many a year on the other side of the Pennines at Preston, he knows the life of a professional footballer better than most, is renowned as a hard worker, and a great finisher (694 club appearances and 171 goals) - if we were looking for someone to be on the field leading by example whilst instilling nouse in kids coming through (and being an emergency back-up if we had an injury crisis), I think he’d be a perfect fit.