Under different circumstances, a local player moving on might well be cause for consternation, as it was in the summer of 2019, but in Hume’s case the impact of his transfer is unlikely to be anywhere near as bitter, nor should it impact the team’s fortunes.
George Honeyman should not have been sold, but for Hume, the situation is certainly different.
I am absolutely certain that this move represents the best possible outcome for the club, and for Hume himself.
Putting aside the ludicrous fake rivalry and animosity between ourselves and Portsmouth, he is almost certain to be afforded the chance of regular first-team football at Fratton Park under the tutelage of a good coach in Danny Cowley. If he can regain full fitness for a sustained period of time, he certainly has the potential to be a real asset to them.
Granted, the most recent memory of Hume in red and white might well be the torrid time he endured at the Emirates Stadium in our League Cup quarter-final, but it should’ve been no great surprise. He was coming back from injury, was clearly off the pace, and Arsenal really turned the wick up during the second half that night.
Naturally, he found himself castigated in the aftermath, and being tagged with the now-familiar label of ‘one of the worst players I’ve ever seen for Sunderland’, but Hume was never as woeful as many made out. He was simply a decent enough player who never really progressed at the rate that many hoped.
On the other hand, would Hume have become the subject of such criticism if his contract negotiations had been concluded more swiftly?
Last summer, as the squad was being rebuilt, Hume held out on signing a new contract, for reasons that have never been definitively established, but certainly did him no favours from a PR perspective. Whereas other out-of-contract players lost no time in putting pen to paper, Hume became an outlier as a ‘will he or won’t he?’ narrative emerged.
As the saga dragged on he was accused of thinking he was better than the club and that he was holding us to ransom. Fortunately, it didn’t affect the team’s fortunes as he was nowhere near the starting XI at the time, but it was something that we could've done without.
I believed then, and still do now, that he was receiving bad advice & conflicting suggestions as to what his next move should be, which can always be hazardous for a young player. Eventually, at the eleventh hour, a deal was brokered and he signed the contract, but his reputation never fully recovered in the aftermath.
Assessing Hume’s Sunderland career is quite difficult, because of its injury-interrupted, stop-start nature.
When fit, he often looked like a good option in what has frequently been a troublesome position for us. He certainly had the attacking instincts that many modern-day fullbacks possess, for a start, but his main problem was a lack of physical strength and defensive discipline. Can they both be improved under Cowley? Debatable, but it will certainly be interesting to follow his progress for the rest of the season and beyond.
Hopefully he can settle on the south coast in an environment that won’t be as white-hot, and that will probably benefit him as he seeks to get his career back on track.