There’s always been a consensus about Gary Neville that he’d put in a 7/10 performance week in and week out. That he was ‘Mr. Consistent’ – the kind of player that every squad would love to have in their ranks.
Had he been a Sunday league footballer, he would’ve turned up for matches come rain or shine, with a hangover, or even with his wife in labour. Consistency and reliability are traits that are loved at Sunderland, and they are attributes that we’ve often lacked in recent years.
This season so far, Danny Batth has established himself as our answer to Neville (minus the newspaper columns and the constant praise of Sir Alex Ferguson).
With just over a quarter of the season gone, Batth has quite possibly been our standout player, and labels such as ‘fridge freezer’ and ‘door frame’ have been bandied around – so much so, in fact, that we are beginning to run out of household fixtures to compare him to.
Batth arrived on Wearside in January with a reputation as a no-nonsense centre-back with a penchant for sticking his head on anything that came his way.
Prior to his arrival, we were shipping goals at an alarming rate, and being on the wrong end of 4-0, 5-1, 3-0, and 6-0 drubbings was simply unacceptable for a club vying for promotion.
After a man-of-the-match performance on his debut against Portsmouth, followed by a period of rocky form and injury, the former Wolves man’s start to life in the North East was by no means smooth sailing. However, when it really mattered, Batth came into his own, and during the run-in, he and Bailey Wright formed an imposing partnership, fortifying our previously leaky backline in the process.
In the opening weeks and months of 2022/2023, Batth and his teammates picked up where they left off, with a number of fearless displays, and although there has been a dip in the team’s performance levels in recent weeks, his own standards have remained high.
What he lacks in technical ability, he makes up for with his defensive nous, exceptional aerial presence, and love of a tackle. Central defensive pairings have the power to make or break a side, and we’ve had our fair share of poor partnerships in recent seasons.
That being said, Batth has slotted in seamlessly alongside Wright, Daniel Ballard, Luke O’Nien and Aje Alese. He has also gone about his business with an unassuming reliability, and at times he’s made defending look effortless.
Following Saturday’s much-needed win over Wigan, the performances of Patrick Roberts and Dennis Cirkin garnered the most praise, but Batth’s assured display against the visitors’ physical attackers was further evidence of why he is such a crucial cog in the Sunderland machine.