It’s fair to say Callum Doyle’s arrival at the Stadium of Light rose some eyebrows. The Black Cats had fallen at the League One play-off semi-final hurdle against Lincoln City and Lee Johnson was beginning his rebuild at the Stadium of Light.
There can be no denying that the Black Cats needed some younger legs in the squad, but there are questions about how a 17-year-old with no experience of senior football could add quality to the squad. On paper, the signing looked a gamble, but it became clear from a very, very early stage that Doyle would be an astute signing.
Much like Dion Sanderson, Doyle played with an experienced head on young shoulders and showed no signs of fearing life in League One. The Manchester City loanee is one of the best ball-playing defenders at League One level and if he continues on the right trajectory, he could be one of those young talents who breaks into Pep Guardiola’s first team.
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He has all the right attributes to develop into a Premier League center-back and has returned to the Etihad after a stellar season with the Black Cats. As things currently stand, the club has opened talks over extending Nathan Broadhead’s loan, but there has been no speculation suggesting the same for Doyle.
With that in mind, Chronicle Live spoke with Manchester City writer, Joe Bray, of the Manchester Evening News for a look at what might be next for Doyle after the end of his Sunderland loan.
What were the hopes for Callum Doyle ahead of the loan move to Sunderland?
Joe Bray: “After an encouraging season at youth level last year, the hopes will have been to get Doyle some good, competitive first team action with a view to developing his game in a better level than under-23s football.
“Sunderland will have been chosen as they were aiming for promotion, looking to play good football under Lee Johnson, and there would also be a fair bit of pressure from big crowds to test a young player. It seems like he’s passed most tests thrown at him with flying colors. “
Has there been any talk about him from the City end throughout the season?
JB: “With Doyle impressing, especially at the start of the season, there was certainly plenty of interest from supporters in how Doyle was doing. City have a lot of youngsters out on loan, and it seems like Doyle was enjoying one of the better spells.
“With promotion getting closer for Sunderland and Johnson departing, it seems that there’s been more competition for places, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for City as they’ll have learned a lot about his character.”
Now his loan is finished, is the natural step a loan move to the Championship?
JB: “You would imagine so, especially after showing he’s more than good enough for League One. Other City youngsters like Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Tommy Doyle, who are both a year or two ahead of Callum, have done well in the Championship, so it’s “fair to say the top City youth players can fit in well in the Championship. Doyle’s still got plenty of time to develop, but there’s no reason why he can’t get a good Championship loan next year.”
What do you think the long-term plan for Doyle is?
JB: “Like many others at City, it’s very hard to break into the first team and there’s lots of good competition at center-back. For now, the best thing for Doyle would be to continue impressing on loan and that way City can see if he’s a future first-team candidate, or increase his sell-on value if they decide to sell him in the future.
“City often hand youngsters new contracts before sending them out on loan, so maybe that’s the next step for him to keep all of his options open and keep developing by playing regularly.”