Attempting to assemble a squad that will not just survive the Championship drop, but instead thrive in the higher division, it is set to be an exciting few months for Neil and Co.
With Callum Doyle returning to Manchester City following a productive loan stint with the Black Cats, Sunderland’s defensive options could be bolstered by the addition of a more youthful, athletic and progressive central defender, something that will provide more balance.
One player who certainly fits the bill, and has accumulated lots of Championship experience this season is Arsenal defender Daniel Ballard.
The 22-year-old, who featured regularly for Blackpool during their promotion-winning 2020/21 campaign, arrived at The Den last summer for a step up to the Championship.
Quiz: Are these 20 Sunderland transfer facts true or false?
Ballard proved to be an integral part of Millwall’s defence last season when fit, proving to be dominant in his defensive and aerials duels, all whilst displaying excellent ball-carrying abilities from a central defensive position.
According to GOAL, if a suitable offer for the young defender comes in, then the Gunners are likely to consider it, and whilst Millwall will be interested given the success he had last year with the Lions, it remains to be seen if it is a deal that they would be able to afford.
Although coming from the lower division, Sunderland are likely to possess the finances to complete a deal like this.
Not only would a move for Ballard be justified by the abilities and attributes he is showing in the here and now, but at 22, he also has an incredibly high ceiling.
Likely to continue on his upward trajectory, he could have a very high resale value in the future, whilst he can grow with the ambitions of the club.
It would also act as a real statement of intent, with Sunderland eager to thrive in the second tier when the new season gets underway.
Ballard represents an investment opportunity for the Black Cats, whilst he is someone who can evidently succeed in the Championship.