Since Dan Neil broke into the first team during the 2021-22 season he’s made a spot in Sunderland’s midfield his own. In less than three years, he has reached a century of appearances and with his role being more crucial than ever this number will be added to throughout the campaign.
Sunderland’s academy is improving with each passing moment, and giving our own youth products a chance has become just as important as those we sign from elsewhere. Neil is the latest of our academy success stories, and this season he has taken a huge step forward in his development and is playing like a seasoned central midfielder. With each passing match, the interest in Neil from Liverpool makes more sense.
Academy graduates line Sunderland’s starting eleven these days, with Neil and Patterson being two of the first names on the team sheet. To any young player on the fringes, whether they be on the cusp of the first team or getting regular minutes in the u23s, Dan Neil is the man to emulate and look up to.
He has been a part of the Sunderland academy and now first team for well over a decade, and he knows full well what it means to play for our club. Neil is a genuine success story of our academy and for all those making their way up the ranks, he’s an example of what hard work and ability can do for you at SAFC in 2023.
The positive impact of Neil’s rise through the ranks has already been seen through Chris Rigg. Still only 16 years old, he’s already got two goals this season and is set to become a useful asset to have on the bench and in the squad. At the end of the day, you want your own academy products either in the first team squad or being sold for a lot of money, with both of these being evidence of success.
People talking about needing more experience in the team clearly look past the likes of Neil. He is one of several young players who, despite their young age, have racked up dozens of appearances in red and white. Yes, Neil might be missing some of the attributes of a true seasoned footballer, but that will come with age. He has the makings of a top Premier League footballer and he’s only going to improve with age.
Neil is crucial to Sunderland’s play this season, and not just because he is one of our only central midfielders. When he and Pierre Ekwah click together, we see some of the best football a Sunderland side has produced in recent years. With Ekwah picking up a knock last month, much of the gritty central midfield work has been left to Neil, and he’s done it with the style and finesse we’ve come to know him for.