MIKE Dodds has hailed Trai Hume as one of the Championship's best full-backs - and says Sunderland must do everything in their power to keep the defender on Wearside for as long as they can.

Hume has played more Championship minutes than any other outfield Sunderland player this season and has started all 43 league games so far. Not only has the 22-year-old impressed on both sides of the defence, he's also moved inside and starred in a back three in recent weeks.

Since joining in January of 2022 for just £200,000, Hume has made more than 70 league appearances for the Black Cats and established himself as a senior Northern Ireland international.

Remarkably, Hume has only missed 26 minutes of Sunderland's Championship season, and while Dodds admits the defender could do with a rest, such is his importance, he says he quite simply can't afford to take him out of the side.


"Trai is a real positive to the recruitment of this football club. You sign him for, and I mean with his the greatest of respect, what is essentially peanuts in the modern-day market and for me he's one of the best full backs in the league," said the interim head coach.

"The fact that he can keep churning out games and minutes says everything about his mentality.

"He is going to need that summer break and he is one of the players who we are really mindful of internally, but I can't really take him out of the team because he is so influential to the team.

"He's a huge, huge asset and one the club needs to do everything to keep for as long as possible."

Whether it's this summer or further down the line, Sunderland are braced for Premier League transfer interest in Hume, and while Dodds has absolutely no doubt that the full-back will be playing top flight football in the future, he hopes that's with the Black Cats.

Dodds also sees captain qualities in Hume and says the defender can go on to lead his country in the future - though he'll have some competition in the form of Sunderland teammate Dan Ballard.

"I said to Dan a few weeks back that I saw him as a potential future international captain and Trai took real offence to that," laughed Dodds.

"Those two are going to have a little bit of a fight for that in the future. If they stay injury free, they are Premier League players in waiting and they are going to accumulate a huge amount of international caps.

"They're both massively important to us and there is going to be a lot of interest at Premier League level if we don't get there ourselves at some point, because that's the quality they both have."

Dodds must decide whether to stick with Hume as a centre-half or move back to a four-man defence for the visit of Millwall tomorrow.

He said: "The back five has served us really well over the last few games. I think what it does do is it allows us to absorb forward passes, which could be something that is important in this game. Millwall will play a lot of forward passes so a back five would be beneficial to that.

“A back four allows you to get another attacking option on the pitch so it’s a decision for us to make as staff.”