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Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final

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RR’s 2021/22 End of Season Awards: Who is Sunderland’s young player of the season?

The average age of Sunderland’s squad has dropped significantly, with lots of youngsters playing their part - but who should be our ‘Young Player of the Season’?

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Jack Gingell picks... Dan Neil!

I don’t think it could be anyone else. One of our own and he has shown a great deal of quality in his breakthrough season.

Neil has shown a level of class you don’t often get at this level and despite his form wavering towards the back end of the season, that should not take away from his contributions and performances across the whole campaign.

3 goals and 7 assists tell a decent story, with his goal at home against Crewe a particular highlight, but it doesn’t reflect on his overall ability to influence and get involved in games.

He has an air about him that you can’t quite put your finger on and a determination to look for forward balls. They might not always come off but he has the vision to get things going and this is a clear sign of a player with real ability.

I’m excited to see Neil progress with us and our promotion will allow him to flourish in a league away from hack merchants and time wasters. His call-ups to the England set-up show he is impressing on a national scale, and thankfully our Championship return will allow him to continue his journey with us.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matty Foster picks... Anthony Patterson!

I’m left with little doubt as to who is my young player of the season.

Step up Anthony Patterson.

After COVID ravaged our squad, Patterson was pulled from his relatively successful loan stint at Notts County and thrust straight into the first team. And you’d be forgiven for having reservations after what was a difficult afternoon at Adams Park.

But the improvement from that game to the one we saw at Wembley is staggering. Every ball into the box was dealt with, and the one time Wycombe breached our back line, there he was to deny Vokes.

And let’s not forget his save against Oxford, which was not only stunning, but pivotal to us winning that game.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale also picks... Dan Neil!

When he was thrown into the mix by Lee Johnson as a lad with zero first-team minutes, he grabbed the chance with both hands and showed every inch of promise that is within him.

Yes, Lee overplayed him and he should not have been put in that position for as many minutes as he played, but he did his absolute utmost to help us succeed for every moment he was on the pitch.

His link as an SAFC fan with the fans is such an unbreakable bond (his name was sung loud and proud even when he warmed up away at Oxford).

He is a player for the future both in terms of ability and sell on value, should he exceed the level we are at (which I very much think he will).

Top performance by someone only just past being termed a “bairn”, and even when put in a difficult situation he shone, hence he is a player I relish seeing develop in the future.

For me he is the best chance we’ve had of developing a top international player since Jordan Pickford - he’s mint that kid.

Sunderland v Milton Keynes Dons - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Will Jones picks... Dan Neil!

We had been clambering for our Dan to get chances in the first team or go out on loan - but he got his chance, and didn’t he deliver.

Ten goal contributions in his first senior season is very good, and that figure may have been higher if we were more stable defensively, and he was trusted in the centre of the park.

You couldn’t have wished for a better first season, scoring at the SOL and celebrating with the corner to which he used to sit, playing magical defense-splitting balls, and being able to prove to everyone that he will one day reach the top.

The only way is up for this kid, and I cannot wait to see him in the Championship.

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

Mike Dunne picks... Dan Neil!

There could be a few candidates for this.

Anthony Patterson has been phenomenal since he took over the number one spot, and Callum Doyle flourished early doors before hitting a wall after Christmas, but for me, I’m going with Dan Neil.

I acknowledge he has not played much in recent times, but the ability this lad has will be recognised next season - no doubt about it.

He started like a train under Lee Johnson at the beginning of this season. Neil was like a conductor in central midfield and showed maturity beyond his age, creating and scoring.

In hindsight, it was probably a little inevitable that he would hit a wall considering it was his first foray into men’s football, but I think we’ll see him progress even further next season.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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