Sunderland have been dealt with a huge transfer blow as journalist Alan Nixon has provided an update on Crewe Alexandra’s Owen Dale.
Earlier this year, Football Insider named Sunderland as one of the clubs looking into a possible deal to sign the 22-year-old. Championship duo Blackburn and Preston, along with Sunderland’s League One rivals Ipswich, were also said to be interested in the attacker.
The Sun journalist Nixon has now dealt Sunderland, and the other clubs, a huge blow in their pursuit of Dale. He said [via Twitter] that the forward is too expensive for any club to sign this summer, with Crewe presumably ready to place a hefty price tag on his head.
Earlier this season, his manager Dave Artell lavished praise on the “brave” attacker, outlining Dale’s mindset in games and how he is ambitious in the way he approaches his style of play.
The 40-year-old told Cheshire Live: “He is very brave. He is physically brave in terms of he wants to head the ball and he is not afraid of tackling and all that. But he is actually brave in what he tries to do, he is ambitious.
“When he reflects, sometimes he is very critical of himself and beats himself up about it. But he is trying things that a lot of people don’t see or can’t do. Well that’s alright.
“There is a consistency element, the right time and the right place.”
Lee Johnson will be devastated that Sunderland have been priced out of a deal for Dale. The former Bristol City boss was seemingly eager to bring him to the Stadium of Light, but the 22-year-old now appears poised to star for their League One rivals Crewe for another campaign.
He racked up 13 goals and assists in the league for the Railwaymen during the 2020/21 campaign, scoring 11 goals and setting up two in 32 starts. He averaged a noteworthy WhoScored rating of 6.91 in 28 starts as a right forward, proving his quality at this level.
Dale has shown that he can score goals from wide positions in League One and Sunderland have struggled in that area. Chris Maguire’s tally of five goals was the highest from any Black Cats attacker outside of main striker Charlie Wyke, who hit 26, whilst defensive midfielder Grant Leadbitter racked up seven goals from defensive midfield. Therefore, Dale could have provided Sunderland with the attacking threat they have been lacking from the attacking midfield and wide roles.
The only beacon of hope for Sunderland is that he is out of contract next summer. Crewe exercised their option to extend his deal by 12 months and he is now set to become a free agent in 2022, unless they are able to negotiate fresh terms to tie him down to a long-term contract. This means that, should they still be keen, Sunderland could swoop for him next year and land him for nothing to bolster their squad.