The revolving door at Sunderland’s wonderkid rehab facility continues to turn as yet another Premier League youngster has arrived on Wearside - Everton’s U21 captain Joseph Anderson, who arrives with a glowing reputation and a bellyful of desire and ambition.
The 21-year-old central defender is the club’s fourth signing of the January transfer window and arrives to improve an already-impressive roster of defensive options which are available to Tony Mowbray for the second half of our Championship campaign.
Whilst Everton have had a disastrous season in the top flight that is no reflection of Anderson’s abilities as he’s not found his way into the first team at Goodison, which is why he comes to us here at Sunderland in a bid to get his career as a senior footballer up and running.
Hailing from nearby Stalybridge, Anderson joined the Everton academy at the age of 15 and was originally seen as a left sided midfielder and left back, but made the move into defence when forming part of the Toffees’ U18s side - and he’s never looked back.
His efforts were rewarded with his first-ever professional contract in 2019, signing up for a further two years only this past summer, which would have kept him there til 2024.
But, after a strong season with Everton’s U21s side in which he’s made 20 appearances - including four in the Papa Johns Trophy - Anderson has decided to move on and take his first steps into ‘proper’ football.
Anderson signed a three-and-a-half year deal, with the club having an option to extend for a further year and, speaking to SAFC.com, Tony Mowbray said that the player would be a long-term asset to the club, with the fact he’s left-footed being a real bonus:
Joe fits the profile of player we want to keep adding to the Club and we look forward to supporting his development in a senior environment. The talent and potential is there and although he may need time to develop physically in the next weeks and months, he will add immediate competition and depth to our squad. A left-footed, left-sided central defender, which is a rarity, he can distribute the ball well from the back and connect defence with midfield – he is going to be a real long-term asset for the Club.
The player himself was over the moon to move to the North East and to also link up with a fellow centre back in Mowbray:
I’m over the moon to make the move, the minute the Club were interested I wanted to come here. I met the Head Coach and really liked what he had to say, and the fact he was also a centre back means I’ll have a lot to learn from him. It’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to and I can’t wait to get started.
Given that we already have an abundance of defensive options I’m inclined to think that this might just be ‘one for the future’, but that’s not to say that Anderson can’t make an immediate impact in the team.
As a left-footed defender who can play left back and left centre half, he’s likely to get plenty of opportunities to play as the other players in his position just can’t seem to stay fit.
We keep talking about ‘futureproofing’ and I think that it’s important to acknowledge something that Tony Mowbray has said repeatedly - that we need to have an abundance of good players around the club in all of our squads to ensure that we keep improving and that standards are high. Anderson may not be seen as a player who will start games straight away, but his chance will come and keeping him fit and ready could prove to be crucial.
So what does this mean for our other players? Well, there’s been a lot of talk about Bailey Wright potentially leaving before the window closes and this may well open that opportunity up now that reinforcements have arrived, but I’m still curious about whether losing two experienced players to long term injuries this week might hamper any chance of that actually happening.
Another player who I could see leaving is Niall Huggins, who looks a fine player but needs a regular run of starts somewhere in order to get his career off the ground again - and he’s unlikely to get that here with so much strong competition ahead of him. Now that Anderson has arrived, could it be that Huggins leaves for the rest of the season on loan?
I guess that we’ll see. Whatever the case may be, I’m happy with how this window is progressing and I think that whilst Anderson might not be seen externally as an ambitious signing, it indicates that we are selling the vision of this football club to young players who could go on to be very good footballers - and that, to me, is true ambition.