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Report Card (Goalies & Defence): Rating Sunderland’s players now we’ve reached the winter break

Now we’ve reached the winter break it makes sense to take stock of things - and today, we’re grading Sunderland’s goalkeepers and defenders. How have they done so far?

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Alex Bass: B-

Now... I know he hasn’t played a lot, but I feel it’d be unfair to give him anything less than a B- given he scored a f*cking last-minute goal against Newcastle’s U21s.

He may never actually play another game for Sunderland but he’ll be remembered forever for doing that in a pointless second string game in front of about 100 people, because it was absolutely hilarious. ALEX BASS BASS BASS!


Anthony Patterson: A

Most fans worried about whether Patto would be able to adapt as our number one in the Championship, but he’s taken to it like a duck to water.

He hasn’t been perfect, but for most of the season he’s been great and has won us points with some important save - most recently down at Birmingham. He has clear weaknesses in his game, but the beauty of that is that he’s still so young, still learning, and is clearly capable of improving and developing. I see this lad having a long, bright career with Sunderland and I’m loving watching him grow before our eyes.

Just brush up on the communication and the kicking and he’ll be fine!

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Kenilworth Road Photo by Rhianna Chadwick/PA Images via Getty Images

Aji Alese: A-

His debut performance against Sheffield Wednesday in the cup was far from convincing, and whilst he had to wait a little while to get his chance in the team it’s fair to say that Aji Alese has been absolutely outstanding whenever he’s played in the Championship in a Sunderland shirt.

He became one of our most important players over a very short period of time, and was so good that he kept a very good player in Dennis Cirkin out of the team. It’s just cruel that he was robbed of being able to contribute over the last month or so through injury, but we’re assured he’ll be back after the break, and I’ve got no doubt he’ll further establish himself as one of the first names on Tony Mowbray’s teamsheet.


Daniel Ballard: B-

Of all the players we signed before the season started it was Ballard who gave me the biggest buzz, and he turned in some very encouraging performances in the early weeks of the season which suggested the hype we’d heard in particular from fans of Blackpool and Millwall was fully justified.

Then, a shite tackle from an opposition player ruled him out early in the season, and he’s still yet to return. Tony Mowbray said this week that he thinks the Millwall game after the break might come too soon for him, but it won’t be long before we see him back in red and white.

It should be fun seeing who misses out once all these lads are fit and ready to go.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Danny Batth: A+

If there was going to be a vote for a player of the season now, Danny Batth’s name would be right in there. Whilst the rest of the defence has dropped to pieces around him, Batth has remained fit and consistent, and has proven to us all why he’s played a large amount of football at Championship level during his career.

There’s nothing spectacular about Batth and that’s the beauty of it - he kicks it, he heads it, he gets rid of it when we’re under pressure, and he leads from the back.

He’s everything you want from a defender, really.


Dennis Cirkin: A

Before his injury I’d say that Dennis Cirkin was an early contender for player of the season too, but he missed out of a couple of games due to the form of Aji Alese - a sign of just how competitive it might get once we have everyone back fighting for a shirt.

To Cirkin’s credit, he showed us all why he should be a regular fixture in the side with his return performance against Wigan, scoring and assisting in a 2-1 win.

There’s a reason why he’s already being linked with a Premier League move and I think we just have to enjoy him whilst we’ve got him, because quality young left-footed English players are few and far between and it won’t be long before someone comes along to take him away. And when that happens, great - it means he’s done well for us and that the transfer has been a success.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Lynden Gooch: C

If they were giving out gold stars for the players who showed the most desire, passion, effort and commitment on the pitch then Goochy would be right at the front of the queue - there’s no denying that he absolutely loves being a Sunderland player, and his contributions at the end of last season were vital to our promotion. He’s a leader, one of the most experienced players in the senior squad now, and he’s trusted.

That said, I think there’s been an obvious drop off in his performances after a canny start to life in the Championship, and his inability to find some consistency in his performances as the season has progressed has been really disappointing.

The Championship is a tough league and it’s even tougher if you’re a player coming up from League One trying to learn a new position. That’s perhaps where I think we have to be lenient when judging Lynden’s season to date - it’s a tough gig for him, and he’s trying his best.

That said, if we’re judging him on performances alone then I think it’s safe to say he’s been very up and down. Since he picked up an injury we’ve looked far more solid with Luke O’Nien in his position, and then Trai Hume did a fine job at Birmingham which gives him half a chance of nailing the position down after the break.

Of all the regular starters in this team, Gooch is the one who has to improve fastest if he wants to remain a regular fixture in Tony Mowbray’s side.


Niall Huggins: N/A

I can’t really judge him properly based off one game, although he did well.

I’m just glad he’s back and playing, because after a year out it could have gone completely the other way for Huggins - just ask Jordan Willis.

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Trai Hume: C

Hmm.

I honestly expected Trai to establish himself as our first choice right back this season, but he’s probably been unlucky to miss out due to no real fault of his own.

This is a young side, and that means we need a smattering of experience through the team - which is why Lynden Gooch has always pretty much started when fit, regardless of whether or not he’s playing well.

And that’s probably been really frustrating for Hume, but he’s still a young lad adapting to life at a far bigger club than the one he joined us from, so perhaps it’s just a case of biding his time.

There’s a chance Lynden Gooch won’t be fit by the time we play Millwall and that means Hume has an opportunity to prove himself before he returns. He’s got a chance to establish himself in the side and give Tony Mowbray a headache - if he doesn’t, I suspect he’ll leave the club on loan in January so that he can get some regular first team football.


Luke O’Nien: A

Many people doubted that Luke would be able to cut it at Championship level but, once again, he’s proven his doubters wrong by showing he’s just as capable of slotting in anywhere he’s needed in this league as he was when we were in League One.

I’ve bumped him up a little bit just because I think he deserves credit for playing wherever he’s needed, and to a good level - he’s become a favourite under Tony Mowbray and it’s easy to see why.


Bailey Wright: C-

I didn’t think that we’d see much of Bailey in a Sunderland shirt this season, but the massive amount of defensive injuries we’ve suffered recently has seen him go from the bottom of the pecking order to the very top.

Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s taken his chance to leave a lasting impression on the fans or the manager, and after he returns from World Cup action with Australia I’d imagine that he’ll move on elsewhere in order to play regular first team football.

He’s a top pro, a top bloke and always gives it his best effort, but I think we’ve probably reached the end of the road when it comes to Bailey’s time on Wearside.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Kenilworth Road Photo by Rhianna Chadwick/PA Images via Getty Images

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