How Dan Neil became one of Sunderland’s most important players

Three years ago, Dan Neil was just an academy player, now he is one of the most important players at Sunderland AFC.

In August 2021, Dan Neil was handed a start in Sunderland’s first league game of the season against Wigan Athletic. He was deployed in an unusual position to him, by ex-manager, Lee Johnson.

He was asked to play as a left back, due to the club not recruiting one until after the season had begun. This, however, didn’t faze Neil, as he put in a solid performance helping his side to a 2-1 win to start off the season.

A strong start to the 21/22 League One season from Neil, meant that he kept his place in the side, moving into central midfield. Neil managed to hold down a starting place throughout the majority of the season, until the final run in where a midfield pairing of Luke O’Nien and Corry Evans were preferred.

After promotion to the Championship Neil returned to the starting 11 and remained there all season. The midfielder arguably looked more comfortable at Championship level than he did in the third tier. Neil kept progressing and he has now been one of the first names on the team sheet for the last 2 seasons, under 3 different head coaches.

Now aged 22, Neil has made over 130 appearances for Sunderland, scoring 9 and assisting 16. Many supporters believe that Neil is ready to make the step up to the Premier League, whether that be with Sunderland or not.