Former Sunderland player Kevin Phillips believes that the Black Cats will not lose young starlet Dan Neil after a conversation he had with owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus.
After releasing a host of senior players over the summer, head coach Lee Johnson has transformed the squad to include more young players, including academy graduates Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil.
Embleton is the more experienced one at 22 years old and won promotion to the Championship with Blackpool last season in a loan spell, but fans have been more excited about Neil coming through the ranks.
Like Embleton, Neil is a central midfielder and despite filling in at left-back on two occasions in League One so far this season, he’s found a home in the middle of the park and has scored once in the league and assisted a further two goals.
Naturally Sunderland fans are worried that the vultures will come circling for the 19-year-old but after talking to Louis-Dreyfus, former European Golden Boot winner Phillips is under no illusions that Neil and other talented Black Cats youngsters are not for sale.
“I believe with the new owner, who I chatted to the other night, they won’t sell the likes of Dan Neil,” Phillips said to Football Insider.
22 questions about Sunderland’s away kits from over the years – Can you get full marks?
“Everything is in the right place. The club is moving in the right direction.
“You have to keep players like Dan Neil. Academy players will look to Neil as inspiration for themselves.
“Lee Johnson has shown that he is looking to go down that route. He is going for a young youthful side. You can see that in his signings. The balance looks really good.
“If you are a young player coming through that academy now you are looking to Dan Neil. His progression will give them confidence and that’s vital.”
Lee Johnson got rid of half the squad that assisted Sunderland to the play-offs last season but after multiple failures over the years it was decided a new strategy was needed.
That included bringing not only younger players in from other clubs but using the club’s talented academy, which fans have been wanting to happen for a long time.
And Neil is now proving that he potentially should have got a chance last season by showcasing his on the ball abilities and we now know that he has a wicked strike from range on him.
Louis-Dreyfus is a wealthy man and he will know how important it is for the club to keep their home-grown talent, and if bids come in January they are sure to be batted away.