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Rating the Lads: Grading the Sunderland AFC squad 2022/2023 (Part III)

In the final instalment of our end of season player ratings, Kyle Garrett casts his eye over Sunderland’s attackers and how they fared this season

Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Patrick Roberts: B+

Roberts is majestic in possession and sometimes I’m left questioning how he’s still got the ball.

His link up with Amad was breathtaking at times and he scored a ridiculous goal against Watford to keep our playoff hopes alive. His two goals away at Reading weren’t bad either.

One thing about Roberts is that his end product is sometimes a bit naff and that’s why he hasn’t gotten an ‘A’ grade. He could’ve scored many more goals if his finishing was better.

Sunderland v Watford : Sky Bet Championship Photo by Kassey Taylor/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Amad: A*

Wow. Surely one of the best loanees we’ve ever had?

Some of the goals he scored this season were absolutely stunning and his affinity with the fans was great to watch. By the end of the season, we were running out of things to say about his goals.

Birmingham, Wigan, Middlesbrough, Birmingham again, Preston, Luton.

It’s a shame that we’ll never be able to see him in red and white again, as he’ll no doubt be shining on the world’s biggest stage very soon.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jack Clarke: A+

When we signed Clarke last summer, there were a few questions as to why. After all, he hadn’t exactly blown people away in League One and now he was being signed for a Championship team.

However, Clarke has proved a lot of people wrong and was easily one of our best players during 2022/2023. Time after time, he would silence the doubters with a stunning goal or a silky assist.

Twenty four goal involvements at the age of twenty two is simply amazing and it’s scary to think how good he could be in three or four years’ time.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Ross Stewart: B-

Our biggest ‘what if?’ of the season.

Stewart scored five goals in seven games at the start of the season before an injury in the warmup at the Riverside Stadium ruled him out for four months. He then scored six in seven when he returned, before a season-ending injury at Fulham.

He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s good in the air and when fit, he’s easily the best striker in the league. He’s also a key focal point and without his presence, we often struggled.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Ellis Simms: B-

Simms will be cursing Everton for recalling him when they did, because he’s barely featured for the Toffees since his goal against Chelsea in March.

Like Stewart, Simms struggled with injury and missed a large chunk of the season. He even went on a run of nine games without a goal, but between the restart after the World Cup and his recall, he really found his scoring touch and proved his worth to the team.

I don’t think we’ll be looking to sign Simms this summer, but he wouldn’t be a bad addition if we’re on the lookout for a striker.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - DW Stadium Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Joe Gelhardt: C+

What we wanted and what we got from Gelhardt were two very different things.

He arrived from Leeds in January and there was excitement among the fanbase. He started off slowly and got better as his loan spell unfolded, but I don’t think he ever really looked like a goal threat.

It’s unlucky because he was doubtless brought in to play just off Ross Stewart, but a day after he signed, Stewart tore his Achilles.

Sunderland v Huddersfeild Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jewison Bennette: C+

During first season in English football after travelling from the other side of the world at such a young age, Bennette’s Sunderland career couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, producing one of the moments of the season when he equalised against Watford.

However, since that moment, Bennette has struggled with injury and he hasn’t really been trusted from the start in games, being limited to appearances off the bench and struggling to make an impact.

There’s definitely a good player in there, and he just needs to find that consistency and take his chance when he’s given the opportunity.

Sunderland v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Leon Dajaku: F

In all honesty, the season was a total disaster for Dajaku.

Signed due to a clause in his loan contract from 2021/2022, it left Alex Neil and then Tony Mowbray’s hands tied when it came to utilising the youngster.

If you watched him in the warm-ups, you would’ve noticed that he actually has a cannon of a right foot, but he just never takes his chances.

After not featuring much during the early months of the season, Mowbray started Dajaku in a couple of games during October and November, and the German did nothing.

He was loaned out to Switzerland in January and was sent off twice in the space of three games, which capped off an embarrassing season.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Isaac Lihadji: C

I wasn’t expecting a player who’s won Ligue 1 and played the numbers of games he did in France to look so raw!

We’ve seen glimpses of Lihadji but nothing as of yet to live up to the hype of why he was named in the Top 100 ‘Golden Boy’ nominations for 2022.

Mowbray said he’s excited for Sunderland fans to see more of Lihadji next season, so he’s certainly one to look out for.

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


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