Opinion: Dan Neil signs new Sunderland contract – Ross Stewart should be next

Following the positive news that Dan Neil has extended his contract at Sunderland, I hope the club are able to agree new deals for their other star players.

The news of Neil’s contract extension was encouraging, especially as performances this season have seen the midfielder touted for a Premier League move. It certainly doesn’t help when Tony Mowbray says things like: “I genuinely think that Dan Neil is on a journey that will take him to the Premier League…If it’s not this club, and we can’t get there fast enough, I think the Premier League will phone up about him”.

But it has never once seemed like Dan wanted to leave Sunderland. He’s a boyhood SAFC fan and this contract just shows how much he loves the club. Furthermore, it has surely given him a well-deserved pay rise!

Now Sunderland have set a precedent for giving their biggest talents contracts, it is imperative that Ross Stewart is tied down. I believe that in a bittersweet way, his injuries this season may be beneficial to us in the long run. This season they’ve been disastrous for us, but at least it has dampened the interest from the top-flight. Before he got injured in the warmup against Boro, there were already rumours that the likes of Brentford and Crystal Palace were eyeing up the Scottish striker. But now, with two pretty major injuries this season, from the outside he may look like a player who cannot stay fit.

Of course, Sunderland fans will know that he is not an injury-prone footballer, and has actually been very robust during his time at Sunderland. Last season he played almost every minute of every competition and never looked like slowing down. I’m no medical expert but it seems to me that this season he’s just been unlucky with injuries – and the wear and tear of playing every game has probably caught up with him.

Despite the injuries, Stewart has already proven himself to be a top-end Championship striker at minimum. He’s scored ten goals in 13 games, also registering three assists. That’s a goal involvement every game, which is matched by no striker in the league. Chuba Akpom and Viktor Gyokeres have averaged 0.83 and 0.68 goal involvements per game respectively.

Going back to the topics of contracts, I don’t think anyone disagrees that we should pay our best players the money they deserve. Ross Stewart has spearheaded our League One promotion campaign, and been a vital cog in our system this season. You’ve seen the drop-off when he’s absent from the starting 11 – we cannot afford to let him run his current deal down.