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Who’s been Sunderland’s most improved player so far this season?

As the season continues to take shape, which Sunderland players have kicked on from 2022/2023 and shown signs of real progression?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gav says… Abdoullah Ba

Not even from last season, but within this one — right now he’s not the same player who played in the game against Coventry, where he was terrible, so bad in fact that I boldly proclaimed on the podcast that he’d never be a right winger as long as I have a hole in my arse.

How wrong I was, because since that game he’s been absolutely superb on the right hand side and has contributed massively to our positive performances, bringing goals and assists and playing so well that he kept Patrick Roberts out of the side…and we all know how much Tony Mowbray likes Roberts.

We heard on the grapevine that the club saw Ba as a long-term replacement for Amad, and while I’m still yet to be convinced that he’s quite at that level, it’s great to see that he’s not only been given the chance to shine, but has also taken it.

Really, he’s an example to our other young foreign acquisitions that if you work hard and bide your time, you’ll eventually get a proper chance to showcase your abilities.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…Dan Ballard

There’s a lot of players at Sunderland whose careers are enjoying a steep upward trajectory at the moment, and there are a few names you could list, but I think I’ll plump for Dan Ballard.

He was already performing at a very high level, but this season he’s come back from injury and stepped it up even further.

To have such good reading of the game and to be so physically dominant at his age is very impressive, and the way he works with Luke O’Nien is a huge part of how the whole team sets up.

O’Nien’s ability to step out and take the ball forward is key to how we go forward, but it wouldn’t work if Ballard wasn’t backing him up. He’s like a brick wall at times but is clever with it, and has also weighed in with a couple of goals at the other end.

It’ll not be long before the lad starts attracting interest from the top but that’s something we’re going to have to get used to. It’s obvious that we’re targeting players like Ballard with the capacity and desire to improve, and it’s hugely enjoyable to watch them progress.

Joseph Tulip says…

It’s very difficult not to say Jack Clarke, when you consider his huge contribution in terms of goals and overall quality in our attacking play.

Clarke has been improving every season but now looks like a player, perhaps after this full campaign in the Championship, who is ready to dip his toes in the top flight.

You can’t look past Luke O’Nien either in terms of the way he has grasped the captaincy and his new role in the centre of defence. Top notch stuff from a highly dedicated professional who is always looking to improve.

Abdullah Ba is knocking on the door now in terms of the starting XI, so his development this term has been swift. He is a player who has certainly benefited from a run in the side and is rewarding Tony Mowbray with some strong performances. He’s not the finished article, but will no doubt keep working on his final product and pushing the likes of Patrick Roberts for a starting berth.

Another player worth a mention here is Trai Hume who is constantly improving, not only as a right back, but one who can slot into midfield and be equally as effective when called upon at left back.

I’m perhaps not answering the question properly here by mentioning a few players, but such is the growing potential of our squad that multiple players are developing together, and at some rate.


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