This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Sunderland have been dealt a frustrating injury blow ahead of the promotion run-in, with it being revealed by Lee Johnson that Dion Sanderson has picked up an injury problem.
Sanderson has been a key member of the Sunderland team this season, and has made 27 appearances in total for Lee Johnson’s side, whilst on loan from Wolves.
The 21-year-old has been deployed as a makeshift central defender in recent weeks due to Sunderland’s injury problems, and has caught the eye with a number of strong performances for the Black Cats.
They’re currently sat third in the League One table, and will be eager to put together a positive run of form at the earliest of opportunities, as they target promotion into the Championship.
It had previously been reported by Roker Report that Sanderson’s injury could keep him out until the end of the season, although Johnson is hopeful that he’ll be available for selection before the end of this year’s campaign.
But how big of a blow is this recent injury blow for Sunderland’s promotion chances this term?
It’s a huge blow.
I have been so impressed with Sanderson this season and it speaks volumes that the likes of Newcastle and Sheffield United have been taking a look at him by all accounts.
He played as a right-back for Cardiff but is thriving as a centre-half for Sunderland, and whether they play a back three or a flat back four, he’s been an integral player.
But for him to be missing for the rest of the season certainly disrupts the flow and is a massive blow.
They have contenders to replace him in his absence, but for me, he’s their best defender.
It’s a massive blow and one that’s come at a really problematic time.
Lee Johnson’s side are struggling at the moment and losing a player that has been key to their late promotion push is the last thing they need.
Sanderson has formed a fantastic partnership with Luke O’Nien at the back and really proven his quality over the past few months.
Given the interest from elsewhere, we may have seen the last of Sanderson in a Sunderland shirt, which is a real shame for supporters.
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This is a major blow for the Black Cats and one they really couldn’t afford to happen.
They’ve suffered a lot of injuries in defence this season but once Sanderson started to get a run of games under Lee Johnson, he stood out as their most talented centre-back and there’s a good reason why clubs from the Championship and the Premier League are said to be watching him.
Sunderland have obviously lost their last two league games but that isn’t a slight on Sanderson – he still makes their line-up a lot better by being on the pitch and his performances this season have proven that.
It does now mean though that Johnson is going to have to shuffle the back – there was no centre-half on the bench against Wigan and Luke O’Nien – the jack of all trades himself – may have to shuffle into the middle whilst Max Power goes to right-back.
It’s not an ideal situation whatsoever and it could cost Sunderland an automatic promotion place.