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Should Sunderland consider selling Pierre Ekwah next month? Absolutely not

“Ekwah has been in a spell of poor form, but his display against Hull was promising - he’ll definitely get back to his best in red and white,” says Phil West.

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s that time of year again, as the rumour mill starts spinning and the usual group of ‘ITK’ journalists start to rub their hands with glee at the prospect of leading football fans a merry dance as the January transfer window draws nearer and top flight clubs get their chequebooks out.

For us, it’s been Jack Clarke at the centre of transfer speculation (a story that'll doubtless be reheated over the coming weeks with Burnley still supposedly at the front of the queue) but recently, midfielder Pierre Ekwah is ‘rumoured to have appeared on the radars’ of Premier League clubs after just under a year on Wearside.

In the first instance, if there is genuine top flight interest in Ekwah, it’s hardly surprising.

When on his game, he’s a highly influential presence in the Sunderland engine room and although he’s struggled somewhat since returning from a dead leg, he’s a player with huge potential and a high ceiling.

Is he currently good enough for the top flight? Probably not. Could he eventually be? Yes, which is why there was plenty of indignation and annoyance at his departure from West Ham fans as their former academy graduate made a positive impression after swapping London for Wearside.

Sunderland v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In recent weeks, Ekwah, for whatever reason, hasn’t looked like the smiling, upbeat presence in Sunderland’s squad that we know and love. Whether it was brought about by Tony Mowbray’s departure or his own dip in form, he’s often seemed troubled on the pitch, with his head down and his confidence seemingly low.

However, the idea that ‘if someone offers us X amount of money for Ekwah, we should sell’ is far too casual a mindset in my opinion, and to tell the truth, I’m bored of the long-running theme of certain players being highlighted as ripe for a transfer, either on loan or permanently, when they have a run of below-par performances.

In 2023, it’s the Sunderland way to show faith with these lads even as they experience ups and downs in form.

OK, we might’ve leaned too slightly far towards unwavering faith in Abdoullah Ba in recent weeks, but confidence is key for young players and the feeling that they have something to contribute is infinitely more positive than leaving them out in the cold and unsure as to what they need to do to get back into the squad.

Had Ekwah been dropped from the team after conceding a late penalty against the Tigers last season, his Sunderland career might’ve followed a very different trajectory. Thankfully he wasn’t, for which Mowbray deserved great credit, and the idea that we should be willing to bid him farewell next month is nonsensical.

It’s fair to say that he still has some way to go before he recaptures the form he was showing in the early months of the season, but any progress is good progress and the last two fixtures have been a real contrast.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

After the shambolic defeat against Coventry on Saturday, during which Ekwah was majorly culpable for the second goal we conceded, his display against Hull was a much-needed step in the right direction.

There was more endeavour, more positivity and he stuck to the basics and did them effectively. He also looked sharper, more focused, and eager to atone for what was undoubtedly a lifeless performance at the weekend.

The Tigers are no mugs, particularly in their own backyard, and this was the kind of performance that would’ve lifted Ekwah’s spirits after the demoralising loss to the Sky Blues, as well as sending a message to new head coach Michael Beale.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - MKM Stadium Photo by Ian Hodgson/PA Images via Getty Images

Looking ahead to how he can continue to influence games, the next two of which are certainly winnable, it’s fair to say that Ekwah isn’t the kind of defensively-minded midfielder that’s going to be one of the bedrocks of a promotion-winning campaign.

Unless Beale can coax something extra out of him or reshape his entire approach to football, he won’t thunder into tackles, empty the tank in a defensive effort or set out to put the frighteners on the opposition from the start of games.

That’s simply not his skillset and January will almost certainly see us dip into the transfer market for a genuinely game breaking CDM to cover off a weakness that the absence of Corry Evans has often highlighted.

However, Ekwah’s drive, range of passing and willingness to get forward whenever possible are all key strengths and if Beale can harness that and slowly guide Ekwah back towards his very best form, he’ll be a real asset during the remainder of the campaign

I’ve got no doubt that players will leave Wearside next month- primarily on loan rather than permanently- but Ekwah shouldn’t be among them.

A year or two down the road, when he’s gained more experience and hopefully played his role in a promotion-winning campaign, the lie of the land might be different but for now, there’s no better place for him than the Stadium of Light.

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