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Sunderland struck gold with Danny Batth

Sunderland‘s signing of Danny Batth on a free transfer has proven to be a masterstroke by Kristjaan Speakman, as the centre-back has been instrumental to the Black Cats’ impressive start to the season.

The experienced defender had spent much of his career in the Championship with the likes of Wolves, Middlesbrough and Stoke City, so he was always going to be a valuable addition at the Stadium of Light when he joined the Wearsiders last January.

Batth came to the north east on a free transfer from Stoke, having turned out just 11 times in the Championship for the Potters last season, and he featured 12 times for the Black Cats as they earned promotion back to the second tier via the League One play-offs.

So far this term, only seven players have earned a higher average rating from WhoScored than Batth, with his strong 6.74 rating a testament to his impressive start to life back in the Championship.

The 32-year-old also ranks first for clearances and second for aerial duels won in Sunderland’s squad, which emphasises how important he is to Tony Mowbray and why he has earned a reputation as a “colossal” defender, as Josh Bunting called him.

The Sunderland-supporting journalist was full of praise for the former Wolves man at the weekend when an injury forced him off in the 1-1 draw with Hull City.

Bunting tweeted: “Hopefully that injury for Danny Batth isn’t serious, hope it’s just a minor one or a precaution and he’s back for Boxing Day. Has been our best player this season, obviously great to have Daniel Ballard back in the team and an option from the bench. Batth is the leader at the back.”

Only Anthony Patterson has also started every single game for Sunderland in the Championship this season, which shows how highly Batth is valued by Mowbray at the Stadium of Light.

Therefore, Speakman deserves a huge amount of praise for prising the defender away from Stoke on a free transfer earlier this year, as it seems likely that he will be hugely important in any push for the play-offs again this season.