Sunderland manager Lee Johnson has suggested that other clubs are going to be starting to take notice of the potential of Dan Neil following his strong form at the start of the campaign.
Neil has enjoyed a very impressive start to the season for the Black Cats in League One with the midfielder firmly now establishing himself in Sunderland’s first-team squad under Johnson.
The 19-year-old has managed to make nine appearances in League One so far this term for the Black Cats and eight of those have been from the start. He has managed to score one goal and provide two assists in that time, as well as average 0.6 shots, one key pass and 1.1 tackles per game.
Despite his excellent form so far this season, Johnson decided to drop Neil down to the bench for the Black Cats’ last two league games against Cheltenham Town and Portsmouth.
However, Neil was back in the side for Sunderland’s Papa John’s Trophy clash with Lincoln City in midweek and he managed to deliver a real reminder of his quality with a fine strike in their 2-1 win.
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Speaking to the Shields Gazette, Johnson insisted that Neil’s form and quality will now start to be attracting the attention of other clubs that could be keeping a close eye on his development.
He said: “There’s no limit for Dan in terms of his technical ability.
“We’ve worked on his physicality and that sort of burst over the first five or six yards, and I think that’s added another dimension to his game this season.
“If anyone was here tonight, and I’m sure there will have been, they will absolutely have been writing down in their notepad to keep an eye on Dan Neil.
“He’s still got a lot to prove and learn, but he’s on a really nice trajectory in terms of his pathway and how he’s improving as a player.”
Johnson has a strong record with developing young and talented players and he was always keen to insist how far Tammy Abraham could go in the game when he had him on loan at Bristol City from Chelsea a few years ago.
Therefore, the fact that he feels Neil is a player with the potential to make it to a high level in the game shows just how much natural talent the 19-year-old has. It has been a real joy to see him controlling matches at times this season in the third tier with his quality in possession.
However, with Sunderland still in League One, they are always at risk of their young talents being poached by sides at a higher level than them. That is why they have to try and ensure that Neil is content at the Stadium of Light and show him that they have the ambition to climb back up the leagues.
Neil will eventually outgrow League One level if he continues his development, so Sunderland need to continue their strong start to the campaign and show that they can develop with the midfielder and earn promotion. Without that, it would be difficult for them to hang onto him.