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Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg

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Rating the Lads: Grading the Sunderland AFC squad 2022-23 (Part I)

After a long season, we decided to rate every player’s performance - starting today with the goalkeepers and defenders!

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images


Anthony Patterson: A-

So many people seem to forget that this was Patterson’s first full season in senior football. He has things he needs to improve on for sure – his distribution and commanding of the area need work but his shot stopping and one-on-one goalkeeping are superb.

He’s young for a goalkeeper, 23 so he’s only going to get better – the question is whether he’ll get better with us or with a different team. I’m certainly part of the group of people who hopes he stays!

Alex Bass: D

He’s played twice this season so there’s not much to say. Had a shambles of a debut against Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup and didn’t play after that until the Shrewsbury FA Cup game where he was ok and didn’t play for the rest of the season.

Did produce the moment of the season for the U21’s though, when he bundled in a late equaliser against Newcastle United at St James’ Park so he gets a bonus mark for that.

Newcastle United U21 v Sunderland U21: Premier League 2
Alex Bass scores in the dying seconds to level the score when the U21’s met at St James’ Park in October 2022
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


Trai Hume: A

Easily Sunderland’s most improved player. Completely mismanaged by Alex Neil, who only played the Northern Irishman a handful of times. Hume came into the side because of an injury to Gooch in December and hasn’t looked for one moment like he’s going to be giving up that spot any time soon. He’s athletic, superb in the air and linked up really nicely with Amad and Patrick Roberts on the right side.

I’d like to see more of Hume in his natural position next season; he did well at centre back but his offensive threat should not be understated.

Lynden Gooch: C+

Gooch had a solid, unspectacular season and was a mainstay in the side due to injuries in various positions. He’s played everywhere across the backline, he’s played in the middle of the park and even did a stint up front for a couple of games coming off the bench to just run, basically.

Gooch always gives 100% and obviously loves the club, and should be kept around – he provides experience and good depth. I do feel that he’s a player we should be looking at upgrading in the summer if we want to push higher in the table next season, though.

Luton Town v Sunderland: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg
Lynden Gooch
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Dan Ballard: B-

No doubt this would have been at least an A- if he stayed fit. Ballard is everything you want from a centre half. He’s good on the ball, wins his aerial battles and can be competitive in a foot race as well – it’s just a shame injuries meant that he only played 19 times in the league.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of Ballard next season, and hopefully he can maintain fitness whilst being a colossus on the pitch!

Danny Batth: A-

Danny Batth received the Sunderland Player of the Season and while he did have a very good season, I don’t think he was our best player. Solid yes, Batth did the basics very well but I just think that he was made to look extra good when we had no other fit centre backs available.

I don’t want to take anything away from Batth because his leadership has been fantastic and he’s had a season to be proud of for sure. I just think that if Ballard and/or Alese were fit for more of the season Batth wouldn’t have gotten that award.

Having said that, I also believe that with Batth, we’d have beaten Luton across two legs – the ifs and maybes of football!

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship
Danny Batth
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Luke O’Nien: B+

He’s just great isn’t he? An example of everything Sunderland fans want from a player – wears his heart on his sleeve, is good in every position and is criminally under rated technically. He must have one of the best weak foots in the squad.

If we were to be picky, he can sometimes be caught out of position a little too easy and makes a couple of dodgy decisions from time-to-time. Still, a brilliant season for himself – at least he smiles though yeah?!

Aji Alese: B-

A positive first season in red and white for Alese, who has shown why he was so highly rated by West Ham fans when he arrived on Wearside.

There’s still some debate as to whether he should be used as a centre back or left back. I’d prefer to see Alese used as a centre back because his defensive qualities are a lot better than his offensive traits.

Like Ballard, I’d like to see more of Alese next season, and I think those two could form a very solid core at the back alongside whoever else it may be.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship
Aji Alese
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joe Anderson: C-

Anderson must have been the most frustrated person in Sunderland when Mowbray was saying we had no centre backs in press conferences.

Granted he hasn’t played a lot, he’s not looked bad whenever he has come on in games. Having said that, he’s made appearances in very low stake games so he hasn’t been tested yet.

I’m going to trust Mowbray’s decisioning as there must be something missing from his game if he wasn’t picked over Gooch at centre back.

Anderson will be one to keep an eye on over summer – will he go out on loan or will he stay to fight for a spot in the team?

Bailey Wright: D-

Rightly or wrongly, Wright was given a new contract after the play off final last year and wasn’t able to cement a place in the team before Christmas before he was loaned out to Rotherham.

Whilst he’ll put his body on the line for the team, Wright just hasn’t got what it takes to fight at the top end of the Championship and I think he’ll be one of a few players to leave this summer.

Sheffield United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Niall Huggins: D+

Another season plagued by injury for a very talented full back. He’s actually only played eight times for us in two seasons which show just how unlucky he’s been.

It’s a shame because whenever he has played he’s looked really good – Birmingham away this season he looked very solid at left back and then went missing for a few months. He came back to play a half against Fulham and held his own against Harry Wilson of Fulham, but then went missing again until the play offs – where he came off the bench in both legs and showed his willingness to fight for the team.

I really hope he manages to stay fit next season because I seriously believe we have a top quality player in Niall Huggins.

Dennis Cirkin: B

Another player whose season has been ruined by injuries (can you notice the theme here?). On the whole it’s been a very good season for the defender, he’s just missed so much football which hasn’t helped anybody. A knee injury kept him out for six weeks before a strange concussion injury kept him out for another seven games meaning that Cirkin only played 28 Championship games.

A frustrating injury on the last day of the season then kept the wing back on the sidelines for the short playoff campaign. Cirkin’s eye for goal was there for all to see towards the end of the season, with two very good goals at West Brom keeping all playoff dreams alive.

Like Ballard, like Alese and like Huggins – I hope Cirkin can stay injury free next season as he’ll be integral to any promotion push.

Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship
Dennis Cirkin
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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