League One

Sunderland: Phil Smith discusses possible move for Patrick Roberts

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Sunderland journalist Phil Smith has given his thoughts on Patrick Roberts and a potential move to the club in the January transfer window.

A recent report from Football Insider claimed that Sunderland have agreed a deal to sign the 24-year-old attacker, who has struggled to make an impact at his current club Manchester City since arriving there in 2015.

He has spent almost the entirety of his time out on loan at the likes of Celtic, FC Girona, Norwich City, Middlesbrough and Derby County – while he is currently at French outfit Troyes.

Speaking on the latest episode of The Roar Podcast, Smith discussed how the Roberts deal came about, but before that, he talked about some of the complexities that the club might face when it comes to bringing him onboard.

He said: “In terms of Roberts himself, I think that it would be a very difficult deal to do because clearly, he’ll be on a very good wage at Manchester City. I think part of the attraction, or part of the reason why they’re monitoring that situation, is because he’s only got six months left on his contract.

“There is obviously that possibility that it might not be a loan. Could you potentially do some kind of deal where you could bring him in on a sort of medium to longer-term contract, which obviously means he wouldn’t count as a loan, and that would obviously help Sunderland in other areas of the pitch. So these are the discussions that are happening at the moment.

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“I can only go on what I’ve been told. And certainly, my understanding – this was on New Year’s Eve, I think, so the situation might have moved on a little bit from then. But my initial understanding was that he was a player whose potential availability [Lee Johnson] was very aware of, someone whose talent made him a potentially very, very attractive signing – certainly to the head coach, who I think rates him very highly.

“But certainly my understanding as of New Year’s Eve, was that it was one of a number of players in that part that pitch whose availability they were monitoring.”

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Having once been described as the ‘Mini Messi’ during his days at Fulham, things certainly haven’t gone well for Roberts since his move to Manchester City.

He’s only managed to score 21 senior goals during his career, and the fact that he hasn’t been able to settle in one particular place doesn’t scream that he’s a desirable commodity, or one of those loan deals may have turned into something permanent.

The one bright spark in his career was his time at Celtic, where he was able to get the bulk of his goals, and given the quality of the Scottish top flight, which has been compared to English League One, then Sunderland might just be a move that can get his career back on track if he’s able to produce at the level he was north of the border.

So he’s certainly someone they should pursue, although it should just be a loan to begin with, because it’s still not a guarantee that he’ll be able to perform when he gets to the Stadium of Light, and they shouldn’t want to take the financial risk associated with someone who could still be a flop.

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Freelance sports journalist & broadcaster.