With the departures of established experienced players such as Danny Batth and Lynden Gooch, there has been a great deal of discussion around the inexperience of the squad that Tony Mowbray now has at his disposal.
Amidst the rapturous scenes that followed Chris Rigg’s hammering of the fifth and final nail into Southampton’s coffin, the focus was very much on the performances of our young guns - Patterson, Hume, Ballard, Cirkin, Neil, Ekwah, Ba, Clarke, Bellingham had all contributed to the humiliation of one of the favourites for automatic promotion, before Bennette, Rigg and Hemir joined the party.
It was a great result but one that leaves a niggling doubt about how such a young squad will deal with the days when things don’t quite go so well.
Over the next couple of days, Mike Stubbs takes a look at the leaders we still have who might help Sunderland’s exciting but inexperienced prospects cope with the ups and downs of a Championship season.
Todays focus is on club skipper, Corry Evans.
Evans joined Sunderland in July 2021, with the club still languishing in League One. He was seen by many as an experienced journeyman, whose biggest attraction was that he was a free agent. It wasn’t a signing to set the pulse racing but he brought a wealth of Championship experience.
As the season got underway, many fans struggled to see what he brought to the team, and social media was awash with messages questioning why he was being picked.
He doesn’t possess the most impressive injury record - yet it was his absences where the value he brought to the team became most apparent. His ability to protect the back 4/5 became most apparent when he wasn’t on the pitch.
Sometimes you can spot a skipper from a mile away - they will be the one pointing, gesticulating, fist pumping and exhorting their teammates verbally.
Evans is the absolute antithesis of all that - undemonstrative, calm and quietly assured. Yet there is an obvious air of authority about the Northern Irishman. It is easy to imagine the most raucous dressing room quickly hushing when the man has something to say.
He also has the advantage of having worked with Tony Mowbray at Blackburn. When a new manager arrives at a club, they often want one or two trusted lieutenants around them.
Evans was already established as club skipper when Mowbray arrived unexpectedly in the autumn of 2022. He knows ‘the Gaffer’ well, understands what he expects and is clearly someone that Mowbray trusts to manage the dressing room.
The biggest indication of how much Evans had become valued by the fans was the reaction to his season-ending injury.
Together with the absence of Ross Stewart, it was seen by many as the end of the club’s promotion aspirations. Thankfully, others stepped up into the breach.
Perhaps most telling was Sunderland’s decision to trigger the contract extension that gave Evans certainty, as he started the long road to recovery. Clearly, those in charge recognise his importance to the young players around him.
The emergence of players such as Dan Neil, Pierre Ekwah, Jobe Bellingham and Chris Rigg may limit Corry Evans’ opportunities, as he returns to fitness. But he is likely to be a key influence in the dressing room this season - a quiet, understated, consummate professional who will help set the standards for the young prospects we have at the club.