This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Middlesbrough are one of three Championship teams interested in a move for Sunderland centre-back Tom Flanagan, as per Football Insider.
Preston North End and Bristol City are the other two sides that are thought to be in the race for the 30-year-old’s signature, with his contract at the Stadium of Light running out at the end of the campaign.
He has played in all but one of the Black Cats’ 15 League One games under Lee Johnson so far this season, operating as a vital piece of the puzzle at the back and someone who could be vital in their quest for promotion at the fourth time of asking.
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Joining the Wearside outfit back in 2018, he has experienced this major frustration and inability to secure their return to the second tier.
And after becoming a key figure in central defence for Johnson’s men – he may bide his time on signing fresh terms to wait and see if he can climb up to the Championship with the Black Cats or not – potentially moving on after that for free if they fail once more.
His chances of joining Boro have arguably been boosted by the arrival of Chris Wilder, who is likely to adopt a back five on a permanent basis, making a new centre-back potentially at the top of the Teesside outfit’s transfer to-do list during January and the next summer window.
Sol Bamba, Grant Hall, Dael Fry and Lee Peltier are four obvious options that can play in this position, although their recent injury crisis in defence may show the need to bring in a reinforcement or two in this area.
Ahead of this potential move, we asked three of our writers at Football League World whether he would be a good signing for Wilder and if he’s needed at the second-tier side.
This comes as a real surprise. Flanagan has been a competent third-tier centre back for a while, comfortable on the ball and able to play in one of the wider roles of a back three.
But if Middlesbrough want to be competing for a play-off place I think they could do a lot better. Maybe Wilder has spotted something in his game that he believes he can improve as he did so famously with Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham at Sheffield United.
As a cover option he could be a decent signing but bringing in Flanagan does not scream of a club who have Premier League aspirations in the near future. At 30 years old this is quite perplexing, but would be a cheap gamble I suppose.
Flanagan is not as solid as the likes of Dijksteel, Bola, Fry if he stays and even the versatile Paddy McNair.
Tom Flanagan has been a regular in the Sunderland side this season so far and there’s no doubt he can be a solid addition to a defence when he plays.
However, with his age and current level of experience, there have to be some questions asked at least about whether he would be up to scratch in the Championship.
There are arguably better options out there for Middlesbrough, ones who could be available on the cheap (or potentially on a free) who present a ‘less-risk, higher-reward’ outcome than Flanagan would.
Flanagan has looked decent this year at times but is that down to the level of the side he is in helping him look strong at the back more than the ability of the player himself?
Albeit, we won’t really know unless he does try his luck elsewhere. However, with other options available and Flanagan arguably still wanted at Sunderland considering his contributions this year, Boro might be better served giving Flanagan a miss in this instance.
I think it could be.
Flanagan is a player that is at the peak of his powers and Middlesbrough have had a few injury problems defensively so far this season so perhaps a bit of extra cover there wouldn’t be a bad idea.
He’s been a regular and reliable presence for Sunderland so far this season and is a player that Chris Wilder might feel would bring some extra experience straight away into the Middlesbrough squad, as they look to challenge for the play-offs.
He wouldn’t cost the world, either, so I think there is enough to like about this signing and it could be a potentially solid one.