The January transfer window of 2022 was absolutely pivotal for Sunderland.
The ongoing battle to escape League One was raging fiercely and at the time, we were firmly in the picture, albeit not exactly hurtling towards the Championship.
The squad was in generally good shape, albeit lacking in depth and with several of the younger players visibly flagging, and the pressure was building as we tried to keep pace with the league’s pacesetters.
If the arrivals of Jack Clarke on loan from Tottenham, Jay Matete from Fleetwood and Trai Hume from Linfield were examples of how we were investing heavily in youth and potential, the signing of Danny Batth from Stoke proved that there was still room for some experience, assuming everything added up.
As it turned out, Clarke is now one of our key attacking weapons, Matete has caught the eye during a loan spell at Plymouth, Hume has been one of the breakout players of the season, and Batth has established himself as a brick wall at the heart of our defence.
However, there was also another noteworthy arrival at that time, so how do we objectively analyse Patrick Roberts’ Sunderland career since he swapped Ligue 1 for another crack at English football?
There’s no doubt that he arrived with impressive pedigree, not least from his successful spell at Celtic. Under Brendan Rodgers, he played a key role in the Bhoys’ continued success during the late 2010s, earning many plaudits and trophies north of the border.
On the other hand, his career had also been somewhat nomadic, as he failed to make a real breakthrough at Manchester City before taking in fairly inauspicious loan spells at Derby, Middlesbrough and Norwich, as well as Girona.
With that in mind, perhaps there was a little bit of uncertainty when he signed for Sunderland.
Was it a chance worth taking? Could he finally put down roots at a club and establish himself as the first team regular and game changing influence that his talent suggested he could be?
However, on the back of yet another goalscoring performance against Watford on Saturday, it’s safe to say that Roberts has been a genuine success story in red and white, and that the decision to bring him to the Stadium of Light has been vindicated.
He played a key role in our eventual playoff success of 2021/2022, scoring the winning goal against Sheffield Wednesday in the semi finals, and the step up to the Championship has seen him flourish even more.
He also embodies the idea that Sunderland is now a club where you’ll get a chance if you espouse the right values, whether you’re a young prospect or a slightly older player who's followed a meandering path during your career.
This season, Roberts has been one of the key figures in our attack, with his almost telepathic connection with Amad the trigger for so many brilliant moves, and he’s also chipped in with a smattering of exceptional goals as well.
Like many of his teammates, he’s benefited from the backing of Tony Mowbray, who’s long spoken of him as being among the league’s finest talents and has relied heavily on him as we’ve kept the season going right until the final day.
There’s a quiet confidence about Roberts that I’ve always admired and ever since he arrived, I’ve had a sense that he’s been eager to make the most of every single second in red and white.
His mentality is perfect for us; he has the confidence to try things and the ability to make them happen, as we saw on Saturday, and he also understands the demands of playing for such a club.
We can all hold our heads high and be proud of what we’ve done this season and that’s all we can ask for really. Sunderland fans want us to work hard and do our best, make ourselves proud of this club.
Although it would be a stretch to claim that his career was drifting prior to signing for us, he was at the stage of his career where really needed to make ‘The Move’ that saw him finally find a footballing home, and judging by how well respected he is by our fans, it feels like he’s done just that.
He’s the kind of player who could make an impact in any league in which he plays, and regardless of whether we reach the Premier League at the end of this season or not, Roberts looks set to be one of our main men and most reliable players for the foreseeable future.