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Ex-Norwich City link and similarity to Leeds United: Sunderland players who stand to benefit from Alex Neil’s appointment

Neil, 40, has mostly been successful in the Championship during spells with Norwich and Preston – when he often set up his teams in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

While there’s a lot of work to be done, we’ve taken a look at some of the players who could benefit from being nominated:

Alex Prichard

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Alex Pritchard playing for Sunderland against Doncaster. Photo by Martin Swinney

The Sunderland playmaker looked set to join Brighton in the summer of 2016 but Neil-led Norwich came forward with a late offer.

Pritchard was well known to Neil after scoring for Brentford in a 2-1 win over Norwich in Neil’s first defeat as Canaries boss.

This impressive performance is said to have stuck with Neil and prompted Norwich to pay £8million on the player.

Asked about his new boss on his arrival at Carrow Road, Pritchard said: “He’s been good, obviously speaks well of me and is an excellent manager.”

The move to Norwich was mixed for Pritchard, who had to wait for his opportunity due to the form of fan favorite Wes Hoolahan.

Still, the playmaker was arguably Sunderland’s best player over the Christmas period and is likely to have a big role to play under Neil.

jack clark

Although there were heavy defeats, Sunderland were forging a reputation as a young striker under Lee Johnson.

It will no doubt have been attractive to players such as Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts, who both joined the club last month.

The pair must have wondered what they signed up for when Johnson was sacked days after their arrival, but Neil’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system should suit the two wide men.

When we spoke to Preston reporter Dave Seddon at the Lancashire Evening Post, he described North End as ‘aggressive pressing, with lots of movement up front’ in Neil’s first season at Deepdale.

That would particularly suit Clarke, who has shown flashes of his ability in a handful of appearances for Sunderland so far.

Clarke, 21, broke into the Leeds United squad under Marcelo Bielsa, with Los Blancos playing high-octane, attacking football.

Preston was also reportedly interested in the winger when Neil was in charge.

Denis Cirkin

Sunderland are lacking options at the back, so Cirkin is likely to be an important player for the rest of the campaign.

Talking about the development of his Preston side midway through the 2019/20 season, Neil talked about wanting his side to play more while encouraging his full-backs to come forward.

The Scot didn’t believe he had the right staff to do so in his first season at Deepdale, so he instead focused on making the team harder to beat.

Still, Preston’s full-backs have played a key role under Neil, with right-back Darnell Fisher registering 11 Championship assists in his three full seasons under Neil.

Cirkin is also a player full of energy, who likes to go forward and send crosses into the box.

He has the makings of a good fit for the 19-year-old defender.

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