Trai Hume | Sunderland AFC

Sunderland are flying high in the EFL Championship and riding a wave of excitement that a squad full of young talent often offers. 

The likes of Jobe Bellingham and Jack Clarke routinely stand in the spotlight, but young Northern Irish fullback Trai Hume is also an integral and ever-present member of this playoff-chasing side.

Tuning into a Sunderland game, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hume is a right winger with defensive responsibilities. The 21-year-old has licence to roam and takes full advantage of the trust and freedom that Michael Beale places in him.

Possession

In possession, you’re as likely to see Hume occupying the opposition fullback, or at times even sitting centrally to impose himself upon the opposition midfield, as you are to find him hanging back with the defence.

Trai Hume does both, often interchanging with one of his central midfielders when the opportunity arises. His positional and situational awareness is undoubtedly a key reason for this freedom, along with the youngster’s impressive versatility. Equally capable of operating on the right and left of the defence.

While rarely being the player to deliver the final ball, Hume is often involved in building attacks and working the ball in the middle and final thirds. More often than not, his participation is fleeting but impactful. Favouring quick one-touch passing and movement to beat the press and create space for his teammates. He’s certainly not one to dwell on the ball.

When the opportunity does arise, Hume’s crossing and final ball delivery does leave a lot to be desired, and would certainly be an area of improvement if he were ever to be expected to provide an attacking threat beyond his impressive progression from deeper areas.

Out of Possession

Taking no credit away from his impressive progression and ball-playing, it’s out of possession where Hume really shines. When called upon for defensive duties, Hume is strong in the challenge and a master of anticipation.

Regularly charging out of the defensive line, Hume is fearless in his endeavour to turn the ball over and regain possession at the earliest possible moment. Opposition wingers need to be on high alert when receiving the ball, lest they find themselves stripped of the ball and chasing back to prevent a counter-attack.

Even at times when the opposition winger does find the time and space to make a run at Hume, he’s almost impossible to beat. Although certainly not a stranger to dramatic slide tackles and combative challenges, Hume demonstrates maturity, composure, and restraint in simply standing his man up, often resulting in a suboptimal shot or cross attempt that is subsequently blocked.

It’s not like you can even really catch Hume out of position. His work rate and athleticism often allow him to track back and recover if the ball is turned over while he’s operating further up the pitch.

He’s not infallible, and can sometimes find himself a step or two away from where he’d ideally like to be, but for a 21-year-old, he’s more than good enough defensively with plenty of time to iron out the minor flaws that exist in this part of his game.

Trai Hume joined Sunderland from Northern Irish Premier League side, Linfield, in 2022. Having progressed through League One and now battling for promotion in the Championship with Sunderland, it’s not entirely unfathomable that Hume sees English Premier League action in 2024.

That may be with Sunderland, if they continue to enjoy success this season, but it’s also been reported that Leeds, Leicester, and Burnley are admirers of Hume.