Sunderland were very close to signing Brighton defender Jan Paul van Hecke during the summer transfer window, and the Championship club may regret not bringing him in after their recent spate of injuries.
Van Hecke looked set to join the Black Cats on loan before Alex Neil’s departure threw his future into doubt, with Graham Potter confirming late on in the transfer window that the player would remain at the Amex Stadium.
To make matters worse, Potter has now joined Chelsea, so the 22-year-old may not even get game-time under whoever takes over as the Seagulls’ new manager. Considering Sunderland’s current injury problems, Van Hecke could have been a very useful player to have at the Stadium of Light.
Daniel Ballard, a summer signing from Arsenal, is a long-term absentee after fracturing his foot earlier in the campaign, while Dennis Cirkin also came off injured in the defeat against Middlesbrough earlier this week.
Tony Mowbray has so far lined up with a three-at-the-back formation, which suggests that Alese could soon make his league debut.
Alternatively, another player may be played out of position while Cirkin and Ballard recover from their injuries, which further emphasises that a player of Van Hecke’s experience would have been very useful.
The Dutch defender spent last season on loan with Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, where he made 31 appearances, averaging a solid 6.90 rating from WhoScored for his performances.
Mowbray was a big fan of the centre-back and even compared him to England World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, saying: “I’ve got to be careful I don’t overbuild him as he’s not our player. But he looks like Bobby Moore out there sometimes. It’s amazing to watch how composed, how calm he can be, yet he has the fire of a warrior in his belly.”
The 58-year-old surely would have loved to have a player of Van Hecke’s quality at the Stadium of Light this season, and considering that Ballard and Cirkin are currently sidelined, the Black Cats boss must be wishing that Sunderland had brought in the Dutchman before the transfer deadline.