Dan Neil made his first league appearance for Sunderland in the 2020/21 season after working his way up through the club’s youth system.
Last season the 20-year-old was a much more regular player making 39 league appearances, although following Alex Neil’s arrival at Sunderland in February, the midfielder was taken out of the starting line-up with appearances more sporadic.
However, the youngster has had a good pre-season and his boss is happy with his progress, as he told the Sunderland Echo: “I think Dan Neil for me looks a different player to what he did when I walked in the door.
“He’s looked fresh, bright, athletic, and he’s looked good quality which we knew that he had.
“I think he’s in a miles better place than he was then.
“And listen, it’s difficult because it was his first season. He did really, really well and scooped all sorts of awards for what he did in the first part of the season and rightly so.
“Naturally though in your first year there is going to be a bit of a drop off, whether that be physically, mentally or both.”
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However, despite not being able to get through the whole of last season, his boss is backing his attitude to help, as he said: “I felt that happened with Dan but he’s come back and I think he looks revitalised, and he’s determined because he wants to make sure that he shows his best self.
“I think he’s done that in pre-season and I’ve been really pleased that.”
Dan Neil had a strong start last season but, at just 20-years-old, it comes as no surprise that he ran out of steam as the season went on especially given how high the intensity was at the Stadium of Light.
His manager seems impressed with his progress over summer though and it seems as though he could have a role to play this year.
Given the Black Cats are now competing in the Championship, the midfielder won’t be looking to start every game but his manager will be keen to give him chances and if he should take them, he could definitely have an impact in the side.