Report: Sunderland want ex-Middlesbrough man Karanka once called an 'amazing player'

Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson during the Sky Bet League One match between Sunderland and Coventry City at Stadium of Light on November 23, 2019 in Sunderland, England.

Richie Smallwood was a big fans' favourite at Middlesbrough and the Blackburn Rovers man could return to the North with League One Sunderland.

Blackburn Rovers' Richie Smallwood  during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Bury and Blackburn Rovers at Gigg Lane on July 24, 2019 in Bury, England.

Sunderland are interested in bringing signing former Middlesbrough midfielder Richie Smallwood, according to TEAMtalk, with the Blackburn Rovers bench-warmer on his way out of Ewood Park.

A Redcar-born northerner who captained Boro at reserve-team level, Smallwood rose through the ranks at the Riverside and made over 70 appearances for the club between 2010 and 2015.

But, five years after he packed his bags and left home behind, Smallwood could be on his way back to where it all began. We mean the North East, not Middlesbrough.

 

According to TEAMtalk, the 29-year-old is set to bring his time at Blackburn to an end after featuring in just a pair of EFL Cup games this season. And Sunderland are one of a host of interested parties expressing an interest in Smallwood, who is available for a minimal fee with his contract due to expire in July.

Wigan Athletic, Huddersfield Town, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic are keen too and, perhaps crucially, they can all offer Smallwood a chance to stay in the Championship rather than drop down to League One level.

Blackburn Rovers' Richard Smallwood celebrates at the end of the game during the Sky Bet League One match between Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic at Ewood Park on December 16, 2017...

With just 13 goals in over 300 career appearances, Smallwood is hardly the prolific central midfielder who Sunderland are crying out for, a la Greg Docherty or Oliver Norburn. But a player with his vast experience and leadership skills on and off the pitch should only benefit a Black Cats’ side with the play-offs in their sights.

“Richard is the kind of player you always like to have in your squad,” his former Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka told the Northern Echo.

“He is the kind of player who trains every day perfect, he is a very good professional, an amazing lad but we brought in Clayton in his position and we needed other kinds of players.

“He's the kind of player who if he has success he deserves it because he is an amazing player and an amazing lad.”

Jerome Thomas of Leeds United in action with Richard Smallwood of Middlesbrough during the npower Championship match between Leeds United and Middlesbrough at Elland Road on December 22,...

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