Speaking to MLSSoccer.com, Tottenham Hotspur loanee DeAndre Yedlin has credited veteran teammates John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Younes Kaboul for helping him become a better defender during his time at Sunderland.
Yedlin, 22, joined Sunderland from Tottenham last September on a season-long loan and has since made 22 total appearances for the club, recording two assists in the process.
The pacey right-back briefly fell out of favour with manager Sam Allardyce midway through the campaign but has since broken back into the side to start their last 10 Premier League games.
The relegation-threatened Black Cats have suffered just two defeats over that period and now go into their final three matches against Chelsea, Everton and Watford with their fate in their own hands.
Yedlin has proved a key player in their fight for safety with some solid defensive displays, despite being better known for his attacking skills, and the US international believes the guidance he has received from the like of O’Shea, Brown and Kaboul since arriving at the Stadium of Light has been crucial to helping him become a better-rounded full-back.
"It comes with experience, so the times I've gotten to play helps me with that," the 31-times capped American told MLSSoccer.com. "Playing alongside guys like John O'Shea, Wes Brown and Younes [Kaboul], who are very experienced, helps a lot.
"My focus has switched a little bit: I'm a defender first, and then I can join the attack. I think, before I was a little bit too young to understand it. I got punished for being too high up and had to realize you can't always go [forward]."
Yedlin originally signed for Tottenham from the Seattle Sounders in August 2014 but stayed with his hometown club for the rest of the 2014 MLS season as per the terms of the deal, helping them win the US Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield title.
The former University of Akron star eventually made the move to England in January 2015 but earned just one substitute appearance for Mauricio Pochettino’s side during his first eight months in north London before joining Sunderland.
What the future holds for him back at White Hart Lane remains to be seen, but for now the former MLS All-Star is just focused on helping the Black Cats beat the drop.
"Our last stretch of games have been good performances, especially this last one, getting the clean sheet against Arsenal," Yedlin told MLSSoccer.com before Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke City. "I'm very confident [Sunderland will stay up]."