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West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - The Hawthorns

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Roker Roundtable: Who’s been Sunderland’s most improved player this season?

Many of our young players have made a huge impression in the Championship this season, but who do our writers think has made the biggest steps forward?

Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images

Gav says…

I’d probably go with Anthony Patterson.

Given that it was little over a year ago when he was turning out in the National League for Notts County, it’s amazing to think that Patto could soon be a capable Premier League goalkeeper or at worst, an established Championship stopper playing for one of the top teams in the division.

He’s not flawless, obviously, but given his age it’s been a steady rise for Patterson, and I think the improvements have been even more stark than anyone else in the squad.

At the start of the season, I was concerned that the club hadn’t decided to bring in an experienced backup, because it meant we were going to be very reliant on a player who wasn’t really established. However, forty odd games, on you have to say that the decision was the correct one.

There are still areas of his game that require work - mainly his kicking, but I think even that has improved recently and he’s looked unfazed when under pressure on the ball.

His command of his area has most noticeably improved in the last six months and now I feel confident that when he comes to claim a ball, he’ll do it effortlessly. Just think back to that Wycombe Wanderers game in League One, when he was bullied inside his own box, and you’ll realise the difference.

He’s kept clean sheets, he’s made important saves, and as shown in the club video where they asked each player who they felt the player of the season was, many of his teammates think he’s been a top performer too.

Regardless of where we play next season, Anthony Patterson is undoubtedly Sunderland’s number one, and that for me is the reason why I think he’s been our most improved player over the last nine months.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Andy Thompson says…

Let’s face it, this accolade could’ve gone to an array of Sunderland players, but for me, the most improved player has been Trai Hume.

He’s now one of the first names on the team sheet and he’s established himself as a very competent Championship player with room to improve.

It was only in December that people were talking about Hume getting a loan move away from the club to secure playing time, but he bided his time and he’s taken his chance in the first team.

He’s made mistakes this season, but has learnt his lessons quickly. He’s also put in assured performances in big games of late and I feel this is the mark of a player with a very bright future ahead of him.

Hume loves a challenge and contributes so much to our style of play.

He’s athletic as well as being comfortable on the ball, and in the half season that he’s played, he’s demonstrated that he’s a solid right back. This has allowed the likes of Amad and Patrick Roberts to strut their stuff, safe in the knowledge that things are taken care of behind them.

Hume has all the attributes of a future Premier League player, and next season is a big year for both himself and Sunderland. Hopefully we kick on and build on a very positive campaign, and I feel very confident that both of these things can happen.

Ewan Bowman says…

This is a difficult one, because you could name at least four or five players, but for me the simple answer is Jack Clarke.

We all knew he had potential and when he first arrived on loan in January 2022, he showed glimpses and many were questioning his final ball. This season, however, he’s taken his game to a whole new level.

In forty seven games in all competitions, he’s scored ten goals and registered eleven assists. Not only is he a vital cog in the team going forward, he also shows great desire in tracking back and his attitude is first class.

Clarke is only twenty two and is only going to get better, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are Premier League teams watching him.

I hope he can kick on next season in a red and white shirt, whichever division we’re in, because he’s a joy to watch.

Burnley v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Turf Moor Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says…

For me it’s easy: the ‘Ballymena Baresi’.

Trai Hume has been superb this season and his development, which has been visible on an almost game by game basis, has been nothing short of incredible.

At first glance, Hume seems an unremarkable player but you’d be so very wrong.

During 2022/2023, his development has seen him strengthen, quicken and improve his reading of the game to a level whereby if you were to look at him now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s a one hundred game veteran of the division.

With his superb reading of the game and absolute serenity in possession, Hume hasn’t just kept some of the league’s most potent wingers quiet- he’s also shown up far more seasoned right backs and in some cases midfielders.

To come from humble beginnings at Linfield to become one of the first names on a top ten Championship side’s team sheet is impressive in its own right, never mind within two seasons, such is the fearless speed at which he’s developed.

Showing all the hallmarks of a potential and dare I say probable Premier League right back, it’s a testament to Hume’s ability that not only has he slotted seamlessly into centre back and midfield roles, he’s also found himself on the score sheet more than once.

It boggles the mind to think that this is a twenty one year old with a mere thirty or so appearances for Sunderland, especially as right now, you couldn’t imagine a future without him.

A superb player, a superb talent and clearly a popular player around the dressing room. Dare I say he may well be the heir to Luke O’Nien’s throne?

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images


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