Sunderland’s season came crashing to an end earlier this month as they lost in the semi-finals of the Championship play-offs to Luton Town.
Tony Mowbray was forced to play Trai Hume, a full-back, and Luke O’Nien, a midfielder, in central defence during the second leg due to injuries to Danny Batth and Daniel Ballard, so the role could now be on the club’s summer transfer wishlist in order to avoid a similar situation in 2023/24.
With this in mind, the English head coach must revive Sunderland’s swoop to sign Dion Sanderson from Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers, as the top-flight outfit are willing to cash in on him in the upcoming transfer window.
The Black Cats have reportedly kept close tabs on the central defender, who was on loan at the Stadium of Light in 2020/21, and attempted to snap the titan up prior to his loan move to Birmingham City last summer.
How did Dion Sanderson perform this season?
Whilst at St. Andrew’s in the Championship, the 23-year-old colossus enjoyed a solid campaign in the second tier and he could come in as Ballard 2.0.
Black Cats sporting director Kristjaan Speakman snapped the Northern Irish centre-back up from Premier League side Arsenal last summer after he spent the 2021/22 season on loan at Millwall and the versatile 6 foot 2 titan has proven to be an excellent signing for the club.
Ballard averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.95 across 19 appearances – ranking seventh in the squad – and won 62% of his duels in the league for Sunderland this term. This shows that the 23-year-old was able to hit the ground running and provide a solid presence at the back when he was able to play.
Mowbray and Speakman could repeat the blinder that was played with the former Arsenal prospect by signing Sanderson, who is another Premier League centre-back coming off the back of a good loan spell in the second tier.
The ex-Black Cats loanee played 31 times in the Championship for Birmingham in 22/23 and averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.84 but it is worth taking into consideration that his team finished 16 points behind Sunderland, finishing 17th in the standings.
Playing alongside better players at the Stadium of Light could allow him to thrive in a winning side, instead of struggling in an underperforming one.
Sanderson, who former Sunderland boss Lee Johnson once hailed as a “Rolls-Royce“, also won 54% of his individual duels and has the strength to hold his own in physical contests, which means that the tank does not get bullied by opposition forwards.
Therefore, Mowbray must revive the club’s interest in the 6 foot 2 enforcer as he could provide much-needed depth at centre-back and has the potential to be Ballard 2.0 in 23/24 by coming in as a proven, strong, Championship defender.