Elliot Embleton - Blackpool - 11 apps, 1 goal, 3 assists.
Elliot Embleton is someone who many (including myself) on Wearside spent the first half of the season crying out for him to be awarded more first-team opportunities.
The 22-year-old is technically gifted and possesses a phenomenal ability to take set pieces with both feet. He has the creative ability to unpick defences and make things happen.
Embleton has played regular football for England’s youth sides, but perhaps has made less first-team progress due to suffering injuries at the wrong time, following an excellent loan spell with Grimsby.
Given that Sunderland signed Jordan Jones and retained Chris Maguire, it made perfect sense for Kristjaan Speakman to loan out Embleton, whilst also awarding him a new one-year contract until 2022.
He looks likely to return to Sunderland ready to compete for a first-team place.
Blackpool fan and EFL reporter, Sean McGinlay, said:
Elliot Embleton has become an instrumental part of Blackpool’s recent success. Having lost Gary Madine and a number of other key figures in the side, Embleton was called upon to become the linkman with Jerry Yates up top.
The loanee has taken his chance with both hands. His positioning off the ball is immense, always finding pockets of space in between the lines to open up attacks in the final third. Alongside that, his pace and dribbling ability allows him to drive at opposition defenders with ease, disrupting low blocks on a regular basis, again another huge advantage.
But what makes Embleton such an asset to this Blackpool side is how quickly he has adapted to the system. Neil Critchley relies on his players to put in a big shift in terms of pressing but also in terms of intelligence to find space and a vision for a pass that breaks the lines, Embleton takes up all of these with ease. He is an all-round number 10 who eases games at this level.
If Blackpool could possibly stump up the money for Embleton in the summer, every single fan would bite your hand off, but you have to think others will be watching on with a keen eye.
Will Grigg - MK Dons - 13 apps, 3 goals, 3 assists.
Following pre-season goals against Gateshead and Harrogate, it seemed Will Grigg had perhaps turned a corner, but two harshly disallowed goals against Hull in Carabao Cup reminded everyone on Wearside that this transfer is just not meant to work.
His horror miss during a home defeat to MK Dons planted the nail in any hope that he could turn his fortunes around at Sunderland and he failed to impress in Lee Johnson’s early matches in charge.
The former Northern Ireland international left Sunderland in January having scored zero goals in 12 appearances, with the club failing to win a single league match in which he started.
It seems certain that he will leave the club on a permanent basis in the summer, he will be remembered as a deadline day £3m panic buy that just should never of happened.
MK Dons fan and writer, Martin Atherton, said:
Grigg has been immense since coming in – just as I think most of us knew he would. He’s clearly a class above this level, as all of our fans knew from his last spell with us, but I wasn’t expecting him to hit the ground running like he has.
In his first game he registered two assists, and he’s since added a few more and three goals as well. Just his presence though changes the game for us; teams are having to sit deeper as they can’t risk giving someone like him space. He’s been a huge factor in our recent form upturn.
The one drawback for him has been that we’ve recently switched to one up top, so he’s had to share the lone striker role with Cam Jerome and Charlie Brown. Still, he’s been very good whenever he’s been on the pitch, and forces teams to adapt to have to keep a stronger eye on him. Top player.
Provided we’re not massively paying over the odds, I’d love to see us sign him on a permanent deal next season. It definitely sounds like something is in the pipeline, and if we’re losing Jerome as expected, he could be a huge figure for our (hopeful!) promotion push.
George Dobson - AFC Wimbledon - 16 apps, 1 goal.
Despite being almost a permanent starter under Phil Parkinson last season, George Dobson’s Sunderland career looks highly to be over come the summer.
The 23-year-old developed an effective partnership with Max Power last season, but a straight red card against Bristol Rovers on the opening day of the season foreshadowed a number of poor performances.
The ex-Walsall midfielder was poor in a 2-2 away draw with Rochdale and even worse in a shocking home FA Cup exit against Mansfield.
He was substituted at half-time in his only start under Lee Johnson, which clearly shows he is surplus to requirements on Wearside.
A frustrating signing overall when you consider he cost part of the money we sold George Honeyman for.
Wimbledon VAVEL correspondent, Edmund Brack, said:
George Dobson, at just 23-years old, has imposed himself as a leader in this AFC Wimbledon side battling for League One survival, playing a role in every game since his arrival.
Although signed by the previous manager, Glyn Hodges, Dobson has become an influential figure for Mark Robinson, acting as his representative on the pitch, consistently talking throughout the game and bellowing orders to his inexperienced teammates. Dobson also orchestrates the attacking intent for the Dons, conducting the game from his deep midfield role.
When the game kicks off, home or away, Dobson’s bellowing voice echoes around any stadium. Whether he is alongside Alex Woodyard, Jaakko Oksanen or Callum Reilly, Dobson fits seamlessly into the side; he is an irreplaceable component of what Mark Robinson is trying to salvage from a difficult season.
The combative midfielder seems to embrace the ‘never say die’ attitude that the new boss has attempted to embed into the Dons, highlighted by Dobson’s resistance to allow the players around him to drop their heads when they go a goal down; he is regularly heard commanding his teammates to stay focused.
While his key attributes have been his excellent eye for a pass, and an innate timing of a tackle, he has also contributed going forward, rescuing a point at home to fellow strugglers, Wigan Athletic, last month.
If Wimbledon were to survive the dreaded drop, there would be no doubt in my mind that Dobson should be the first name on the list for Robinson’s rebuild.
The Dons are evolving, with the move back to Plough Lane elevating the club, and bringing a player of Dobson’s ilk in on a permanent deal would only serve to highlight the progress. However, it all hangs on the South West Londoners League One status.
Lee Connelly - Alloa Atheltic - 20 apps, 2 goals, 2 assists (both seasons)
He was given several cameo appearances during Sunderland’s EFL Trophy group stage matches across the past two seasons, but he has spent the last season and a half with Scottish Championship side Alloa Athletic.
Connelly scored 16 goals in 39 appearances for Sunderland’s under-18s, which led to him being listed by Guardian writer Louise Taylor as the Black Cat’s best upcoming academy talent.
Unfortunately for the 21-year-old, he has struggled to nail down a starting spot for Alloa and with his contract expiring in July, it seems likely that he will be released.
Alloa fan and match commentator, Kieren Mooney, said:
Alloa fans were excited with the return of Lee Connelly to the Indodrill when he signed on for a second season. Just before the early termination of the season Connelly began showing his flair as the manager implemented this new, exciting system. His positive performances rewarded him with a goal on the final day of the season against Inverness.
However, this campaign, much like the whole team’s, has been a frustrating year for Connelly. He started the first few games before dropping to the bench, with the odd cameo performance.
As 2021 began, so too did an eight game spell where Connelly didn’t contribute a single minute of football. As results suffered, he was brought back into the team in March and added a much needed breath of fresh air for the squad.
Previously deployed on the wing, where he was arguably too lightweight, he had a new role playing just off the shoulder of inform striker, Inness Cameron. He grabbed his first goal of the season in spectacle fashion in the team’s first victory in five.
However, when it came to the biggest game of the season against Arbroath, despite being a stand-out, he was dropped once again adding more fuel to the frustration. There is definitely a player in there and we have seen glimpses of brilliance on his return to the starting eleven but when the manager looked for heroics against Arbroath, he reverted back to the tried and tested as opposed to the young talent.
Many Alloa fans have seen a progression in Connelly though and with us most likely dropping down a league, would welcome the return of the forward.