As an Irishman, there is generally nothing much to be getting too excited about when it comes to our international football team. In more recent times, the international team has become a source of much debate within football circles in the country.
The manager, Stephen Kenny has attempted to shake things up in a way that has not been witnessed in this country in years. In many ways, Kenny has sacrificed opportunities of qualifying for tournaments with a massive influx of younger players who will hopefully be around the team for years to come.
Many of these players are very highly rated and are emerging through academies at big clubs in the Premier League, others are young talents forged at Championship clubs
In just the past few days, Gavin Bazunu, the young Irish goalkeeper who was on loan at our League 1 rivals Portsmouth last year has just completed a multi million move to Southampton from Manchester City. He is just one example of some of the young Irish talent that could be on the move.
Whilst a player like Bazunu is certainly beyond our reach, there are many other Irish talents that I think Sunderland could certainly be looking at ahead of the new season.
Troy Parrott is seen as one the next big things in Irish football. He has already had a couple of loan spells from Tottenham with mixed success. However, it has to be said, his last loan ended extremely positively and he brought this form into the Nations League with the Republic of Ireland where he nabbed a goal and an assist.
After a great start, Parrott lost a bit of form in the run up to the Christmas with MK Dons last season. He openly admitted that his attitude towards his football had to be altered if he wanted this loan to be a success. In fairness, the changes he made worked as in the run-in, Parrott became a key man. He scored many important goals including one in the play offs and created some too. He ended the season with ten goals and six assists.
In recent days, ex-Sunderland striker Stephen Eliott spoke on Irish radio suggesting that Sunderland would be the perfect place for Parrott next season:
But for him to keep improving, he needs to move himself up a level. I think somewhere like Sunderland - they need a couple of strikers - they’ve got Ross Stewart there at the moment but he could do with a little help in there.
I think if Troy Parrott came to Sunderland, I think he’d embrace playing for a club like that with the big crowds, the atmosphere at the games and that feeling of doing well there and thriving there.
He looks like the type of player that thrives on playing on the big occasion and I think it could be a really good move.
This is the one player I would love to see Alex Neil to try and get this summer. At 21 years of age, Jason Knight was already appointed club captain of Derby County. He was an integral part of their team and has already made over 100 games for them along with his fourteen international caps.
Knight is a combative, creative midfielder with bundles of energy but also an eye for a goal. He strikes me as a player who would thrive in an Alex Neil styled midfield due to the energy levels he could bring to the midfield. His manager, Wayne Rooney is known to be a massive fan of him and is quoted as saying:
He’s very vocal, which is very rare for a young player these days. He gives everything in training - tackling, running. Very similar to the way I was at his age.
It is rumoured that Knight is highly sought after, with clubs in the Premier League and Championship chasing him. It is very likely he will leave Derby, and with their financial issues, it will be on the cheap.
Whilst not exactly young at 27, I believe this could be one that may happen. Alan Browne has been a stalwart of the Preston North End team since a young age. He has played almost 300 games for Preston and scored almost 40 goals.
Browne is a very versatile player. He can play in the centre of midfield, as a winger or wing back. He has also been played as a wide right of a front three giving managers many different options of where to play him.
Browne was an integral part of the Preston team under Alex Neil and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Neil go back for his former player. Neil has been quoted in the past stating his praise for the Irishman”
I have always relied on Alan in my team because he has done great for me. He is a proper lad who will give everything.
Players such as Southampton’s Will Smallbone could be another youngster that Sunderland may seek to take on loan. he’s only just back from a cruciate injury but has been a regular in the Southampton squad the past couple of seasons. He will be seeking games and a loan move to the Championship could be perfect with him.
West Ham’s Conor Coventry, the Irish U21 captain will certainly be on the move again. The midfielder had a successful season on loan at MK Dons but it is likely that he will be seeking for a loan the level above now to push on.
In a more unlikely one, it is likely that Liverpool’s number 2 Caoimhin Kelleher may be seeking a move away from Anfield for regular football this season. It is more likely that he will look to stay in the Premier League but if he cannot obtain a club at that level, one would like to think Sunderland would be a great club for him considering our stature in this league.
Considering the club’s strategy of going for youth, I would not be surprised to see Sunderland go for some of these players this summer.