Could Elliot Embleton make it two play-off successes in a row?

Sunderland's win at Oxford United kept their play-off ambitions alive, and with Elliot Embleton scoring the winner, can he repeat the feat he achieved for Blackpool last season? Matt Wilson discusses

It was on May 30, 2021 that a Sunderland player got promoted last season, out of League One and into the Championship.

I’m not sure if it has happened before but we loaned out one of our own players to a league rival and they achieved something that Sunderland have failed to do for the past three seasons.

Similarly, the player in question had managed to do something in the tangerine of Blackpool that he’d failed to achieve in red and white – namely becoming an integral part of his side and making crucial contributions.

Elliot Embleton is one of those young prospects you hear about years before they make an impression on the first team. Like Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford before him, he was a regular feature in the England youth setup, arguably peaking at the 2017 Toulon Tournament as he, alongside the likes of Harvey Barnes and Reece James, helped England triumph.

Embleton had scored a goal against Scotland in the semis, and held his nerve in the final by converting his spot-kick when the game went to penalties. This was still seven months prior to his Sunderland debut, and fans could be forgiven for thinking he’d have a similar impact to the aforementioned Jordans.

A promising loan move to Grimsby aside, truthfully it took until his spell at Blackpool some four years later to prove he could contribute goals and assists when his side needed it most.

Indeed in the past two games, games in which Sunderland have left it incredibly late, it is Embleton who has provided the cutting edge from the bench. Firstly with a delightful ball to Nathan Broadhead for him to nod in against Gillingham in the 95th minute, and on Saturday the provider turned goalscorer as he side-footed home from inside the box against Oxford in the 89th minute.

Two goals that could well have saved our season, and two goals that would’ve not happened without Elliot Embleton.

His season has not been without ups and downs, and certainly fellow young talents Dan Neil and Ross Stewart (until recently) have achieved levels of consistency that continue to elude him.

But if he is able to continue making telling contributions alongside the return from injury of Alex Pritchard and the emergence of Patrick Roberts as an attacking force, Sunderland have the creative tools alongside a newfound defensive solidity to have a successful end to the season – and maybe, just maybe, Embleton can achieve play-off success again, this time in the red and white of Sunderland.