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Roker Roundtable: “Who have been Sunderland’s unsung heroes this season so far?”

The likes of Ross Stewart and Jack Clarke might have grabbed the headlines, but the wider squad have stepped up, too. We asked our panel for their thoughts on who else has made a real impression

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gav says… Corry Evans

I think Evans has been absolutely fantastic and to be honest, I’m a little bit shocked at how well he’s slotted back into life in the Championship.

That probably sounds slightly ridiculous, given that he’s played almost the entirety of his career at this level, but up until Alex Neil arrived last season I thought he struggled even in League One.

However, thinking logically about it, it’s easy to see why.

In the league below we were largely facing teams that sat behind the ball, and as we’ve seen so far this season that’s just not the case when playing other Championship sides. That clearly suits not only Evans but the others around him in the team.

Aside from the fact that he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet now, he’s our captain. We seem to have a large number of leaders in this squad but he’s the one who has the armband, and given our team spirit has been great so far this season, I’d suggest that he’s a huge reason why we’ve looked so good.

Evans has run games from the centre, and is clearly suited to having players like Dan Neil and Alex Pritchard ahead of him who he can give the ball to.

Our spine is solid and, frankly, I’d be worried if Evans went down injured (I’ve gone and said it now, haven’t I) because whilst we have some solid midfield options, I’m not sure any of them give us what he does - he’s an experienced head and a leader, and one of the few older lads we have in the squad.

Evans’ impact in easing the transition from Neil to Tony Mowbray can’t be understated either.

He was a regular at Blackburn under Mogga and I’d imagine having such a key figure onside already in the dressing room will have helped to allay any fears from the players about the new man’s credentials. He’s an ally that Mowbray will need to lean on as the season progresses, and there’s no doubt that he’s got a key part to play in how this side shapes up.

I remember when he first signed and I interviewed a Blackburn supporter who was less than complimentary about Evans, and to be honest, there were times last season when I didn’t have a good word to say about him.

I’m really happy to say that he’s not only proven that Blackburn fan wrong, but he’s also proven me wrong. He’s an absolute credit to this club and his role in the way we’ve shaped up over the last season and a bit can’t really be understated.

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

Kingsley Reavley says... Danny Batth

Batth has proven to be another astute signing and is the no-nonsense, savvy centre-half we’ve been crying out for.

What he lacks in pace and agility, he more than makes up for with his positional sense, ability to make last-ditch blocks, leadership and winning what seems to be 95% of aerial duels.

Since he joined Sunderland, his contribution can’t be understated.

He was initially brought into the club to help us escape League One, which is exactly what he did. It didn’t take long for him to become one of the first names on the team sheet, and he was outstanding during the playoff campaign.

Being one of the few players in the squad with Championship experience, he’s adapted well this season and helped nurture those around him. It must be reassuring for the likes of Anthony Patterson and Dennis Cirkin to have a seasoned pro alongside them to guide them through difficult periods of games.

The partnership he has built with Bailey Wright, Daniel Ballard and Luke O’Nien has been key to our success and has provided the platform for the creative players in front to flourish.

He may not always get the plaudits he deserves as his role in the side isn’t the most glamorous or eye-catching, but we’ve got a lot to thank him for. Hopefully he remains fit for the rest of the season and continues to lead by example.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Mark Wood says…Lynden Gooch

There are a few candidates who spring to mind, all of whom seem to be among our more experienced players. Coincidence? That’s another debate, but for my choice I’ve gone for the player who has won me over with his performances from the start of the season, and that’s Gooch.

I feared that at some point, a team would brutally expose him as a Championship wing-back, but you have to say that he has improved since the start of the season, particularly in his defensive duties.

I still wish he would watch the where the ball is going, rather than appealing and putting his energy into pointing, but joking aside, he has brought all of his best qualities to the table this season.

He looks like he has had the beating of his man every time when attacking, and he has rarely been embarrassed when defending. He has done everything you want to see from a wing-back, and he deserves his place in the team.

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