From the doom-laden cries of ‘he’s definitely off in January’ and ‘We’ll be waving goodbye to another key player when the transfer window opens’ to ‘#Roberts2026’, it never ceases to amaze just how quickly a player’s Sunderland future can change, does it?
Despite arguably not seeing the absolute best of him this season, I doubt whether you would’ve found a single Lads fan who was enamoured at the prospect of Patrick Roberts leaving the club in the near future, but thankfully, that possibility has now been laid to rest.
Penny pinching? A regime fixated on the bottom line at the expense of keeping our best players on Wearside? I don’t think so. Even if they haven’t been swayed by the social media demands to ‘pay him what he wants’, the club hierarchy have rewarded someone who deserved it, and that should be acknowledged.
On the back of Saturday’s victory over Birmingham and the positivity of an international break that’ll be spent in the Championship playoffs, Monday brought yet more excellent news as Roberts signed a new contract. Speculation ended, nerves calmed, and another new deal worked out after months of uncertainty.
By any metric, this is another hugely positive development, because Roberts is a footballer of high quality and superb pedigree, someone for whom the chance to represent Sunderland after a nomadic career in British and European football was clearly something to be embraced.
Signing him in League One was a real coup and he’s repaid that faith on countless occasions - as well as becoming a genuine fan favourite in the process.
His last-gasp winner Hillsborough in the 2021/2022 playoffs will always stand the test of time as one of the most important goals ever scored by a Sunderland player, but equally important was his sublime goal against Watford last season, a strike that salvaged a point and kept the playoff bandwagon very much on course.
In a tight game, where something magical may be needed in order to settle it, Roberts is someone on whom you’d bet good money to produce when it matters.
He’s a big game player with the mentality to match, and when on form, he leads by example, with his skill and ability to take the game to the opposition with mazy runs and incisive passes a fundamental part of our attacking game.
So far, it’s fair to say that Roberts’ 2023/2024 campaign hasn’t yet ignited but the emergence of Abdoullah Ba as a viable alternative on the right wing combined with the team’s collective improvement means that we haven’t suffered as a result.
Whether this was a result of a contractual impasse and the subsequent uncertainty over his future, we’ll probably never know, but now that both player and club have worked out a new deal, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Roberts embark on a run of much-improved form and add a greater goal output to his often dazzling buildup play.
On a side note, it’s also important to highlight the fact that Ba’s continued improvement is no bad thing, either.
They’ll push and spur each other on, and it’ll give Tony Mowbray the capacity to rotate when necessary. Both players have slightly different skill sets, but many clubs in this division would give anything to have such exciting options on their right wing.
Of course, Monday’s news will lead to inevitable questions about whether a January loan for Amad might’ve edged closer, a move that would give us even more attacking potential as we aim to sustain a top six push during the second half of the season.
After all, the pair dovetailed as effectively as any Sunderland attacking duo have ever done during 2022/2023, and one widely-discussed explanation for Roberts’ slightly underwhelming form so far is the lack of the Manchester United prospect for him to work with.
Personally, I’m not entirely sure that this is true.
Great players often adapt their game to deal with the loss of their ‘foil’, but if Amad were to return to the Stadium of Light in two months’ time, Roberts would doubtless be delighted at the prospect of reviving their partnership, and it might also help to get more out of our strikers, too.
At boardroom level, Roberts’ new deal is also another praiseworthy move by the club hierarchy.
It preserves their record of retaining far more key players than have departed the club on their watch, and it also ensures that if there’s any concrete interest in Roberts in the near future, we won’t be selling him for pennies.
On the other hand, given his recent comments, there’s no suggestion that he’ll be angling for a move away, meaning that the prime years of the exciting winger will hopefully be spent in red and white.
His career before joining Sunderland was somewhat unsettled, but he’s clearly found a footballing home on Wearside and it’s fantastic to know that his future is secured, he’s received the backing that he maybe felt he needed, and that there are hopefully got many more moments of skill and game-altering creativity still to come.