Gary Engel says...
Well, I said last season that I felt confident going into the final stages of the season due to the number of players returning from injury at the right time. However, we all know how well that notion faired. As those returning only appeared to weaken an already fragile side, including Hume who broke down again soon into his comeback from injury - that proved a real blow.
But onto this season, I hoped less reliance upon Hume would be a good thing, less need to rush him back to action.
Certainly, another long-term absentee, Cirkin, should now be considered first choice ahead of him after all.
With Hume though we have to be patient, he’s become the new Watmore in some regards. You wait three months for him to return from injury and see flashes of what he can potentially be before he’s injured for another couple of months - the story of their Sunderland careers.
The same could be said of Evans too - both he and Hume need a run of games where they can build up their match fitness, strength and confidence. Often players who are afraid of the next injury are most likely to sustain another, possibly by not quite committing in the tackle and coming off worst for it. Until they get a good six months under their belts they can’t be relied upon too heavily. It doesn’t mean they can’t prove their worth, all the same.
Cirkin on the other hand shows the pedigree of player we should be signing and building our future around. A player's form can come and go - granted. But in the early weeks, he showed what we have been missing for some time, and it takes me back to when we had left backs who could excite and worry opposition defences, rather than be just our soft underbelly.
Kevin Campbell says...
All three of these Lads are interesting figures for me.
Evans was obviously brought in for his leadership qualities and to help balance what would’ve been a very young squad without him. However, with the emergence of Neil and Embleton, and with Winchester shining back in the midfield, Evans becomes an odd man out of sorts - a good bench option and a good mentor for some younger squad members, but nothing much more.
Hume I’d like to see go out in January. He made his loyalty to the club known during his mini contract holdout this summer and hasn’t been match fit or healthy since. He’s got some quality in there, but I don’t see him as a part of Sunderland’s future plans for me.
Cirkin is by far the most important of the three for me, but there’s a way to go in his development. I also wouldn’t rush him back from injury and would look for some experienced cover in January. Cirkin has been good in flashes when he’s played but he’s suffered from some youthful inconsistency at times and staying fully match fit.
I’d like to see us use him in tandem with a January signing for the rest of the season as we develop him for the future, as I do think he will grow into a very good player.
Andrew Smithson says...
Oddly enough you could argue that our best form has been when we’ve only had 13 or so senior players available. We started the season on fire without any recognised full backs and during the latest injury crisis our results have picked up strongly again. I’m not sure that is sustainable over the whole season though, and whilst I appreciate what Nick Barnes said on the latest pod about how Lee Johnson likes working with a smaller squad, I do think we can afford to accommodate a few more bodies.
It is pleasing to see the three lads back, therefore, and because our form is good it means we don’t have to rush them too much. We have seen with Corry Evans and Denver Hume before that they need to be handled carefully, but if they are able to get fit I have no doubt they can contribute.
As for Dennis Cirkin, I’m thrilled to see him coming back. We have to bear in mind that he is only a couple of months into being considered a first team regular and I think I am right in saying he moved up to Sunderland following the death of his father, so he has a lot to contend with and yet has shown he clearly possesses real quality.
I think he is a player that could potentially move back up the divisions with us as he learns he trade and it is encouraging that young players like him see us as a club where they can improve. Cirkin seems dedicated and brave, I know some people felt his form dipped slightly before his injury but crucially I never felt he was a passenger and so I’m happy for him to fine-tune his game whilst knowing he can still do a very good job for us as it is.
Phil West says...
When fit, Dennis Cirkin slots straight back in as first choice at left back. His Sunderland career, pre-injury, had definitely been on an upward trajectory, some iffy performances included, and he was looking like a real solid presence as well as a player who wasn’t shy about getting forward when needed. His return will be a huge boost, without a doubt.
Denver Hume, so often a player who stirs debate about his ability, durability, and overall status at the club, can certainly be a more-than-useful backup for Cirkin. The worry I have with Hume is whether he will remain fit enough for any real length of time, and therefore have a chance to make an impression. Compared to Cirkin, he is much more physically lightweight, which may be to his detriment. However, I do think Lee Johnson sees something in Hume, and perhaps next week’s cup game against Arsenal may represent the first chance for him get back into the picture.
Corry Evans is possibly the only one of our summer signings who has come anywhere near close to being an unsuccessful piece of transfer business. He has rarely managed an extended run of games, and he has not really made a significant impression during the matches he has played. With central midfield an area that certainly needs strengthening during the January window, Evans really needs to contribute significantly when he returns in order to show that he isn’t destined to be reduced to the role of a fringe player.