Sunderland manager Lee Johnson will surely be over the moon with his side’s start to the season as they have racked up four wins from their five competitive matches so far.
The Black Cats have won three of their four League One games and beat Port Vale in the first round of the Carabao Cup this month. They now travel to face Championship side Blackpool in the second round of that competition, having been pipped to promotion by the Tangerines last season.
After a 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon at the weekend, with Carl Winchester scoring the only goal of the game, Sunderland will be looking to use their momentum to progress in the cup.
This game has presented Johnson with the perfect opportunity to make changes to his team. He will want to fresh up a few positions in his side to rest legs and give others the chance to come in and stake a claim for their position in the XI moving forward.
One player who should be unleashed against Blackpool is summer signing Niall Huggins. He joined the club from Premier League side Leeds United this month and is yet to make his debut for the Wearsiders, with this Carabao Cup clash the ideal game in which to give him his bow.
Winchester has been playing out of position at right-back in the league, which means that Huggins could come in to allow the 28-year-old to play in his favoured role. He is a midfielder by trade and could slot into the midfield for Luke O’Nien, thus allowing Huggins to make his debut for the club at right-back.
After the official announcement of the 20-year-old’s arrival, Johnson hailed him as an interesting and versatile player with who he is looking forward to working with. He told Sunderland’s official website:
“Niall is an interesting player and tactically he’s very versatile – he is also very good physically in terms of his speed and acceleration and he’s a good dribbler, whether that’s playing left back or right back. He’s a bright kid and he’s had a very good education at Leeds, but now it’s the right time for him to step into that first-team environment. Niall is another one that we have added to our stable of quality young players, so we are very happy to have him and we’re looking forward to working with him.”
This shows how highly the Black Cats manager rates him and why the 20-year-old deserves this opportunity to put in a strong performance at right-back and lay down a marker for the rest of the season. It’s his time to show what he can do and prove that Johnson was right to bring him to the club this summer.
If he can come in and produce an excellent showing at right-back, it could convince the former Bristol City head coach to hand him a few starts in League One. It is down to the player to prove himself, though, and duly give Johnson some selection headaches.