The future looked bright for Ethan Robson one year ago.
A highly-rated young midfielder who has risen through the ranks at Sunderland, the local lad made good was one of the few positives The Black Cats could take out of a nightmare 2017/18 season which ended in relegation to the third tier for the first time in 30 years.
And Robson's rapid rise had not gone unnoticed. According to The Sun, Rangers were hoping to lure Robson to Scotland with a box-to-box enforcer clearly catching the eye of Steven Gerrard – one of the greatest midfielders of the 21st century.
So when Robson signed a new contract to commit his future to the Stadium of Light, this felt like a real coup for a struggling Sunderland.
But those who thought the Houghton-le-spring born academy graduate would force his way into Jack Ross’s starting XI and become a key player on Wearside have been left disappointed. A series of injuries have left the 22-year-old’s long-term future uncertain and, for the short-term at least, he will be playing in the fourth tier of English football.
Robson has joined Grimsby Town on loan as he looks to get his career back on track. He fell behind new recruit George Dobson thanks to an ill-timed thigh injury which robbed him of a potentially invaluable chance in pre-season. And, with Dylan McGeouch, Luke O'Nien, Max Power and Grant Leadbitter also fighting for a place in Ross's two-man midfield, even an impressive spell with The Mariners might not be enough to save Robson's Sunderland career.
He looks a long way from the Black Cats's plans right now, never mind a potential move to Rangers.
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