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Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship

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Assessing Alex Pritchard’s ongoing importance to Sunderland!

The playmaker was at his best on Monday, scoring against Preston and keeping Sunderland on the front foot. We asked our writers for their thoughts on how key a player he remains for us

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

I absolutely want Pritchard to stay and if securing his future was based on performances since 2021, it would be an absolute no-brainer.

However, I don’t know what the situation is behind the scenes.

He’s thirty years old, which means he’s one of the few experienced pros in our squad, but he’s only about eight months older than Luke O’Nien, who signed a new contract in the summer and was made club captain.

So why, therefore, has O’Nien been lauded by the hierarchy while Pritch has constantly had to work extra hard to prove himself, despite being such a key player whenever he pulls on a Sunderland shirt?

The arrival of Bradley Dack in the summer was puzzling and with Pritchard benched more often than not this season, it was suggested that former head coach Tony Mowbray had a preference for Dack in the number ten role having worked previously with him at Blackburn, but that particular move certainly hasn’t worked out.

Whether the apparent ostracising of Pritchard at certain points during the current season are to do with his age, coaching preferences or something else, it’s clear that he’s a fan favourite who brings a lot of energy and creativity to our side, and is always at the heart of our attacking play.

If Pritchard does depart, it won’t be a reflection on performances from a player who’s served this club so well. Instead, it’ll be based on something behind the scenes.

It does appear, however, that Michael Beale is a fan of Pritchard’s qualities and if our new head coach- who Kristjaan Speakman has said will be listened to on recruitment- votes in favour of a new contract for the former Huddersfield man, it could certainly sway matters.

I’m a huge fan of Pritchard.

I enjoyed his goal and performance on Monday and hope he stays for as long as he can be influential for Sunderland. Oh, and he seems to love playing for us too!

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I’d be very happy if Pritchard stays with us for another eighteen months or so, and I’d welcome a club announcement of a one or two-year contract extension.

What he brings isn’t something we have in many other players, and against certain teams he seems to be one of the few assets we can use to unlock and break down opponent defences thanks to his vision and experience.

With the recent injury to Patrick Roberts and the related recovery time line being unclear, I’d expect Pritch to keep his place in the side for the next month or two, especially given how well he played against Preston.

After seeing how Abdoullah Ba has struggled to establish any form or confidence on that side of the pitch, we need him around.

If we’re looking at gambles such as the possible return of Yann M’Vila, who turns thirty four this year and will be a total unknown to us after not being at the club for eight years, why would we not consider giving Pritchard another year with an option to extend a year further?

For me, we’d be mad not to.

He isn’t always perfect but he’s peaking at the right time and hopefully we sign him up before someone makes us an offer we can’t decline.

He’s far from our core strategy of developing youth, but he’s well worth an extension.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Phil West says…

In my opinion, it’s imperative that Pritchard remains a Sunderland player for the remainder of the season at the very least.

Whatever’s happening behind closed doors with regards to his future either needs to be put to one side for now, or even better, common sense will prevail and he’ll sign a new contract soon.

Despite the fact that we can call on an array of talented attacking midfielders, among them them the exciting Adil Aouchiche, whose time will eventually come, Pritchard remains a cut above, with his mentality, skill, composure and ability to lead by example all utterly vital.

The club places a very high premium on data and algorithms nowadays, which is fine, but there are certain qualities that you simply can’t gauge with a computer and Pritchard embodies just about all of them.

In a squad that’s packed with exciting young talent, he might be something of an outlier in terms of age, but as we aim to maintain a top six challenge during the second half of the season, he's the kind of player you’d give anything to be able to call on.

If Pritchard starts games, you know you’re going to get at least an hour’s worth of quality from him, and if he’s used as a substitute, he can inject some calmness during the final twenty minutes or half an hour- particularly if a game is tight and we need to see it out.

He also seems to be a respected figure among the squad and as an example to his younger teammates of how to conduct yourself as a Sunderland player, he’s absolutely exceptional.

Almost three years since he arrived on Wearside, Pritchard remains a key player in the Sunderland setup and I’d love to think that his story in red and white has some chapters still to be written.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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