We caught up with Sunderland Echo’s Joe Nicholson, who gave us the inside track on a Black Cats homegrown talent who could fit the bill as the wing-back Cowley’s looking to recruit.
‘Denver was injured at the end of last season and then there was stand-off over his contract in the summer.
‘He was offered a new deal by Sunderland and they wanted to protect their player who’d come through the academy.
‘Denver has come through the ranks, played last season and done quite well when he played.
‘He was certainly quite highly rated at the Academy of Light, but he initially didn’t sign the contract offered to him and that played out openly in the media.
‘That probably wasn’t a good look for him, certainly with the Sunderland fans.
‘Eventually he did sign and stayed, but at that point he was recovering from a hamstring injury which he suffered towards the end of last season.
‘That meant he started the season out of the side with Dennis Cirkin coming in from Tottenham, who’s done really well.
‘Denver has been second choice and suffered another injury, this time on his ankle, around October.
‘So he hasn’t been able to regain his place in the team, so he will naturally be disappointed with the lack of game time he’s had. It’s partly down to him being second choice and partly down to injury.
‘He’s quite an attacking full-back and has played in a back three and back four.
‘His biggest asset is going forward. He’s very energetic, that’s why Lee Johnson wanted to keep him on - he likes the fact he can carry the ball down the flank.
‘It’s those attacking qualities which have stood out in his time at Sunderland, giving the team an outlet down the left.
‘Denver’s contract was for two years with an option of an extra 12 months. He’s 25 and a good age.
‘He was within his rights to explore his options in the summer, but that definitely dented his reputation as a player who’s come through the academy after appearing destined for a big future at the club.
‘Now Cirkin has come in and impressed, I don’t think there would be huge disappointment if he did leave.
‘But the one thing Sunderland would need is a replacement and they are also looking in other areas. They have signed Patrick Roberts and perhaps need another option in central midfield or right-back, so would want to maximise what they receive.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron