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Q&A: Is Wolves loan star Dion Sanderson ready for Premier League step-up?

Wolves defender Dion Sanderson has now enjoyed four loan spells, but is he ready for the step up to the Premier League?

Dion Sanderson on-loan at QPR (PA)
Dion Sanderson on-loan at QPR (PA)

Having previously impressed at Cardiff and Sunderland, the 22-year-old signed a new four-year contract at Wolves last summer before immediately joining Birmingham on loan.

After a hugely impressive stint at Blues, he was recalled in January and spent some time on the Wolves bench before going back to the Championship on loan at QPR.

After two vastly contrasting spells within the same season, is he now ready to stake his claim in the Wolves squad? We spoke to senior football writer for West London Sport, Ian McCullough, to find out.

How would you rate Sanderson’s loan at QPR?

“He struggled, to be honest. In fairness to him, I saw him when QPR played at Birmingham and he looked really good. He was Birmingham’s best player, so when they signed him in January it looked like a really good signing on paper. He was a little bit unlucky that his presence in the side coincided with the team’s downward spiral. They had loads of injuries and him and Jeff Hendrick were blamed for it, which is completely unfair on him.”

What attributes of his impressed you and what were his shortcomings?

“He did a lot of community stuff. He had a three game ban after his red card but was turning up on match days to do stuff, he fit in well and was a good lad.

“Warburton was always strong on signing players who are good people who fit into the dressing room and he did that. If the team was winning and playing well there wouldn’t have been as much pressure on him, but the fact that they were fourth in the middle of March and then fell away, losing seven out of nine, fans will look at who is to blame. I’m not sure about him on the ball. There were a few times when he got the ball and his instinct was to get rid of it, but that also comes with confidence as well. I do wonder if he still has that bravery on the ball that you need, especially if you’re playing in the Premier League in a back three. That was part of the reason Wolves sent him to QPR. At Birmingham they were more pragmatic in their style, but at QPR they played with a possession-based style. Unfortunately it didn’t work out.”

What position was he best utilised in at QPR?

“He played a bit on the left of the back three, not on his stronger foot, and he also had a stint at right-back as well, which he wasn’t cut out for. They had so many injuries that they moved to a flat back four and he played right-back but really struggled. I think towards the end his confidence took a massive knock. I wouldn’t say the fans were on his back but they weren’t backing him at the same time. When you come on-loan from a Premier League club everyone expects you to be Premier League ready, but the pressure got to him a little bit and I think it played on his mind. But he was very popular around the club and the players liked him. He seemed a really good lad but it didn’t really work out for him at QPR.”

Is Sanderson capable of making that step up to the Premier League?

“The one thing I can say about him is he has good pace and a really good attitude – he’s committed. But he just turns off. He’s caught out of possession too often. He’s too impetuous, he dives in and makes the tackles instead of standing off and he makes silly fouls. I guess he’s a bit raw. He’s had good loans and is not a kid anymore, so you don’t expect this from someone with the best part of 75 games under his belt. I don’t know if he’ll quite be good enough to play for Wolves, but he can change and improve. But from his stint at Rangers my instinct is that he’s not ready for the Premier League now, or maybe he never will be.”

Would he benefit from another Championship loan?

“Yes, I think so. He has pace and with that, particularly in the Championship, he’ll get a team. Maybe a club like Birmingham and the way they play suited him better. He was ‘the man’ there but at QPR he wasn’t the key centre-back. Maybe playing second fiddle didn’t work in his favour.”

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