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The five Sunderland players who can really add something different after the World Cup break

The World Cup break feels well timed for Sunderland, with a bunch of players returning from injury and others pushing for starts after bedding in. Who can make the greatest impact when the action resumes?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jewison Bennette

We’re in a really odd situation with Jewi where despite not starting a game for Sunderland this season, it could be playing for his country on the biggest stage of them all that becomes the making of him.

Tony Mowbray has been asked repeatedly about his stance on Bennette and beyond some really confusing stuff about the fact he can’t speak English very well, the footballing reasons are pretty clear to me. He might not really know what’s being asked of him but whenever he’s thrown on you can see him trying his absolute best to make an impression.

He’s had just three months in England but you’d like to think by now he’s starting to settle in, and hopefully we’ll see that develop in his football too.

If he manages to impress playing for Costa Rica at the World Cup, I’d expect there’ll be a clamour from the fans to see more of him - let’s hope that’s the case.

Costa Rica Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Oliver Hardt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Dan Ballard

When we signed Dan Ballard from Arsenal I was seriously excited.

He’d impressed fans of both Millwall and Blackpool during loan stints at the start of his career, proving he’s more than capable of becoming a top defender in the Championship - and as a newly promoted side, that makes him a rather shrewd acquisition.

He started the campaign brilliantly and played like he’d been here for years. Big, strong, athletic, good with the ball at his feet, great in one-on-one situations, great at intercepting the ball... and then came the inevitable - an injury and a lengthy spell on the sidelines, because as we all know, at Sunderland we just aren’t allowed to have nice things.

It feels like he’s been missing forever, but after the break - though, perhaps closer to Christmas than the Millwall game on December 3rd - he’ll be back in contention and ready to kickstart his Sunderland career.

One thing we’ve missed desperately since Ballard and a bunch of other lads went down injured has been aerial presence in both boxes, so I don’t see any way that he won’t make a massive impact on our side once he’s fit.

I’m genuinely excited by the prospect of what could be coming with Ballard, especially alongside Aji Alese and Danny Batth. For my money that’s probably one of the best central defences in the league, with a wide variety of skills between the three of them.

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

Niall Huggins

Having trained just once with the first team prior to the game, Huggins was thrown into the starting eleven at Birmingham and did a brilliant job playing at left back in the absence of Dennis Cirkin.

I bet he couldn’t believe his luck. I bet that there have been points over the last year or so where he wondered if he’d ever play professional football again, such were the nature of some of the injuries he’s been plagued by since arriving from Leeds.

But to me the fact Huggins is back out on the pitch is proof that hard work pays off. He’s clearly grafted hard and looked after himself mentally in order to get back to a place where he’s even competing for a place in the side, and now the key will be to not only hold down that spot in the side, but to stay fit and show Tony Mowbray why he’s worth persisting with.

Yesterday here on the side we debated the right back position, because that position is still up for grabs until someone comes along and claims it as their own. Gooch has been injured but prior to that wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, O’Nien has done a grand job there but probably isn’t an option if we move (as I suspect we will) to a back three with wing backs, and my gut feeling is that Hume will go out on loan.

Huggins’ ability to play on either side makes him a commodity, as does his pace, and I think he could turn out to be a really important player for us in the second half of the season.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ross Stewart

It probably sounds a little bit daft to say Ross Stewart can add something new given he’s been such a regular fixture in our side over the last couple of years, but it feels like he’s been gone forever - and nobody else in our team gives us what Rossco does on the football pitch.

His ability to press from the front, work the channels, batter central defenders about, defend set pieces, get on the end of crosses and score goals makes him rather unique and I think we’re lucky to have him. He’s that good.

Obviously, we shouldn’t rush him back, but everyone is expecting him to come back in and pick up where he left off from. He’s probably our best player and whilst we’ve generally just about coped without him in the side, we’re a much better team with him in it.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Edouard Michut

Just when I thought he was on the cusp of starting a game... he got injured.

He’s fine though and is back in training over in Dubai, so he remains in contention after the break.

Of all the young players who signed in that mini flurry towards the end of the summer window, Michut was the one that stood out a mile. He’d been around the PSG first team and had played alongside some of the best players in the world in league games, so it was natural to assume he’d be more than good enough to play in the Championship after a period of adjustment.

Now that he’s had a few months to settle in, it’s probably about time to start asking a bit more of him and the other young lads that came in - but given his quality, it’s Michut that I think can have the biggest impact.

I’ve wrote about this on the site before, but that position alongside Corry Evans at the base of the midfield is still up for grabs. Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton have been afforded plenty of chances this season to stake their claim but I don’t think either players have stuck their flag in the sand - and maybe that’s where Michut can step in after the break.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images


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