The Black Cats have racked up 15 points from their first ten matches as they have made the most of the positive momentum winning the League One play-off final earlier this year gave them.
They have thrived in spite of their troubles off the pitch as manager Alex Neil opted to leave to join rivals Stoke after the season had started. Tony Mowbray was brought in to replace him and he has picked up seven points in his first four outings, winning 3-0 in two of his first three games.
Kristjaan Speakman backed Neil, and then Mowbray, in the transfer market by bringing a host of fresh faces to the Stadium of Light in the summer transfer window.
He made ten signings for the first team as the likes of Ellis Simms, Edouard Michut, Aji Alese, and Daniel Ballard, among others, all came through the door.
However, one player he may live to regret not signing is central defender Dion Sanderson. At the start of the summer, the Northern Echo reported that Sunderland were keen on snapping him up on a permanent or loan deal from Wolves.
Instead of ending up on Wearside, the defender, who Josh Bunting previously described as “lovely“, signed for Birmingham on loan until the end of the 2022/23 campaign and his performances at St. Andrew’s make it clear that failing to sign him was a howler by Speakman.
This shows that Sunderland already had first-hand experience of his talent and that makes their failure to snap him up even more of a blunder, as he is now showcasing his quality week-in-week-out in the Championship.
Sanderson has averaged a SofaScore rating of 7.02 in the second tier this season and has started all ten of Birmingham’s fixtures, making 3.7 tackles and interceptions per game. He has won 62% of his individual duels and completed 80% of his attempted passes, which shows that he is strong off the ball and is comfortable in possession.
Meanwhile, no Sunderland central defender with at least three starts in the Championship has averaged a SofaScore rating higher than 6.79. Although, Luke O’Nien – who has played at centre-back and in midfield – has averaged a score of 6.92.
These statistics suggest that the Wolves loanee is performing to a higher level than the Black Cats’ current options in that area of the pitch, which is why he could have been a superb signing for the club.
He is a player Sunderland knew all about, given his spell on loan in 2020/21, and were interested in signing and that, along with his performances this season, is why missing out on him was a howler from Speakman.