Sunderland manager Lee Johnson is keen to give the chance for Josh Hawkes to impress in pre-season amid interest from elsewhere, according to the Sunderland Echo.
Hawkes has been overlooked somewhat surprisingly so far by Johnson since he took over at Sunderland, and that comes despite the 22-year-old impressing on a regular basis with the club’s under-23s this season.
It has been reported by teamTALK that the likes of Leeds United, Newcastle United, West Ham and Crystal Palace are all interested in making a potential move for Hawkes this summer. It was believed that West Ham and Palace were both leading the chase for the 22-year-old.
However, there have since been reports from the East Anglian Daily Times that Ipswich are considering making a move for Hawkes as well this summer. It is understood that he could be keen to move away from the Stadium of Light for first-team football.
The latest update from the Sunderland Echo reveals that Johnson is now wanting to give Hawkes the chance to show what he can do in pre-season and look to potentially hand him a more involved role within the first-team squad.
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Johnson, speaking to the #SAFCUnfiltered Podcast, via Sunderland Echo, outlined his plans for Hawkes and other young talents at Sunderland.
He said: “I think, just to give Josh Hawkes and Dan Neil as an example, one of the big focuses is their summer. How can we bridge the gap physicality-wise from under-23 football to first-team football?
“Part of that journey will be that they will sit down with myself on a football front, then they will sit down with the sport science team and we’ll actually build them a really itemised plan, if you like.”
This is a very sensible approach from Johnson and he needs to be careful that Sunderland do not lose a player with the talent and potential of Hawkes this summer. The 22-year-old is someone that has a lot of quality that he has been displaying regularly for the Black Cats’ under-23s and he will be itching to get a taste of first-team action now.
The longer that Johnson ignores him for in terms of handing him some first-team chances, the more likely it will be that the likes of Ipswich, Newcastle, West Ham or Crystal Palace swoop in and sign him from them.
Losing a talent like Hawkes would be a major blow because he could have a major impact next term if he is given the chance to do so.
It seems Johnson is now going to be much more receptive to giving Hawkes a chance to get into his side next season. If that is the case then the 22-year-old might yet be convinced to remain at the Stadium of Light. That would be a major positive for Sunderland because he should only continue to grow as an asset for them in the coming years.