becoming a thoroughbred athlete by the time of his return. Harder, fitter, faster, stronger.
“That comes naturally with playing games,” says Clegg. “I think it's a case of getting the right balance of regularly playing games at a high level, preparing your body with core work, gym work, strength work and the right regeneration, and then you've got to get your body ready for the next game. When you do that it makes you become a man. At reserve team level you're not sure if you're playing or not - and if you do then it's usually against kids and you’re playing below yourself - but when you realise that you're under lights, in front of cameras and playing every week, it makes you grow up quickly.”
Both Welbeck and Evans recognise the importance of their stints at the Stadium of Light. “I came back a man,” the striker has admitted on more than one occasion, while his defensive cohort has conceded: “Playing Premier League games was tremendous for me. In my second or third game (in the second loan spell), against Spurs, I was absolutely tortured by Dimitar Berbatov. I loved it. I really enjoyed it. It is a lesson you can't learn unless you are playing."
The role of Sunderland in the pair's progression is unquestioned, and gratitude is mutual between the two parties. “For a squad like us, to get these young lads who want to kick on and push, who believe that they're better than Sunderland, in a good way, it just gives everyone else a lift,” says Clegg.
“With Jonny, Danny - and Danny Rose, who is on loan from Tottenham at the moment - none of them saw Sunderland as the pinnacle of their career. That really pushes themselves to kick on and inspires the people around them. The qualities they brought to the club were different class and it’s no surprise to us to see how far