Breaking down Nashville SC’s Sam Surridge signing

After a lengthy pursuit, Nashville SC officially announced the signing of Sam Surridge today. With a reported purchase price of $6.4 million, the English striker becomes the club’s second-biggest transfer in club history. The transfer fee also includes a number of add-ons which could eventually increase the fee to $7.7 million, a figure that would see Surridge leap above Aké Loba as the club-record signing.

By all appearances, the Nottingham Forest striker has always been Option A for the Boys in Gold this offseason as they sought to fill their open Designated Player slot. A photograph surfaced in recent weeks purporting to show Surridge in Nashville back in June.  

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Now, with Surridge in the fold, the focus becomes on how to best integrate him into the squad. With no language barrier and a similar culture, it should be a relatively smooth process, comparatively, for him to adjust to. 

However, I do not expect Surridge to immediately supplant Teal Bunbury in the starting XI. Surridge has only participated in light training for the last few months. He did not feature in any of Nottingham Forest’s preseason matches this summer. Therefore, Surridge’s first objective will be to build his fitness and start finding sharpness following a long off-season. Surridge should expect a series of substitution spells of increasingly longer duration before he finds his place with the starters. It will be a role that he is quite familiar with. 

Overview of Surridge’s career

Surridge, who will turn 25 on Friday, has had a rollercoaster of a career thus far. He has yet to score double-digit goals in a season but has only played one season as a first-choice starter.

He broke through the youth ranks with A.F.C. Bournemouth. However, like most Premier League youngsters, he spent the bulk of his first few professional seasons on loan. 

The first two loan moves were to Weymouth and Poole Town, non-league sides on the seventh and sixth levels of the pyramid, respectively. Surridge next spent a pair of seasons on load in EFL League Two with Yeovil Town and Oldham Athletic. After returning from loan with Oldham, Surridge made his Premier League debut for Bournemouth in 2019 with a pair of substitute appearances. At 21, he was handed yet another loan move, this time to Swansea City in the Championship where he featured regularly as a substitute but struggled to find a consistent run of starts. 

After his parent club was relegated, Surridge spent the 2020-21 season with the Cherries as their bench striker scoring six goals across 1,353 minutes. It was enough to convince Stoke City to make Surridge their big purchase of the summer spending a reported £5.5 million on the young striker. However, Surridge’s time with Stoke was short-lived. After failing to settle in, he was permitted to move that January in a deadline deal to Nottingham Forest that sough Stoke settle for half of the original fee

Sam Surridge – All Touches (2022 EFL Championship Playoff Final)

Stepping in for the injured Lewis Grabban, Surridge proved pivotal in Forest’s promotion push scoring eight goals in 20 matches across all competitions. After the Red’s win in Wembley, Surridge was headed back to the top flight. While it was great news for the club, Forest’s massive roster overhaul sent Surridge back to the bench in 2022-23. He featured regularly in cup competitions but only made one start in Premier League play. 

With just a year remaining on his contract and no clear role moving forward, Forest permitted Surridge to find a move this offseason. A few EFL Championship clubs were rumored to be interested in signing Surridge, which likely complicated the transfer on Nashville’s end. 

A natural finisher with room to grow

In Gary Smith parlance, Surridge is a “big lad”. However, it would be a mistake to just focus on his 6’3” height.  

Surridge’s playing style is defined by his predatory instincts inside the penalty area and his ability to find pockets of space to exploit defenses. One of Surridge’s notable strengths is his clinical finishing. He possesses a natural goal-scoring instinct and a surprising amount of technical ability. 

Additionally, Surridge exhibits impressive off-the-ball movement, making intelligent runs to create space for himself and his teammates. His mobility and work rate ensure that he remains a constant nuisance for defenders, constantly searching for gaps and exploiting them with his well-timed runs.

As mentioned, he stands at 6 feet 3 inches. It gives him the frame necessary to be the sort of aerially dominant, hold-up play specialist that Nashville needs. However, his game is still more akin to a skillful Ethan Zubak than it is to an industrious Teal Bunbury. His natural instinct is to run the channels more than post up with his back to the goal. 

However, that is not to suggest that he can’t provide hold-up play and be the striker that Gary Smith and Nashville need. He will play his part as a long-ball outlet, especially when the game state requires it. 

Just as importantly, Surridge appears to be a willing defensive presser. I am not sure that he possesses Bunbury’s instincts for popping up in passing lanes, however, Gary Smith isn’t going to yank him off the pitch for lack of effort. 

 At times, he has struggled with consistency, partly due to his lack of consistent minutes on the field during loan spells. This inconsistency can manifest in occasional dips in form or lapses in decision-making, hindering his overall impact on the game.

Overall, Surridge appears to thread the needle of providing enough of the necessary dirty work to help Hany Mukhtar shine while also having the quality to be a double-digit goal scorer if provided consistent playing time. 

How Surridge will affect the roster and budget

With the $6.4 million dollar transfer, Sam Surridge becomes Nashville’s third and final Designated Player. With his arrival, the club and supporters alike will be hoping that he blossoms into the long-awaited answer to NSC’s striker riddle. 

It is a steep price to pay for a striker without a consistent pedigree and who became surplus to requirements for Forest. Although, it appears the Reds benefitted behind the scenes from a bidding war. With second-tier teams in England sniffing around, it forced Nashville to pay a premium price to get their man. 

By signing Surridge, Nashville has largely filled out its roster. There may still be room for a couple of additional moves this summer, but the transfer window will close on August 2nd. 

Mike Jacobs still has an open U22 slot that has been left unfilled since the departure of Rodrigo Piñeiro. Notably, Nashville will have just one U22 slot available moving forward. By signing another senior Designated Player, the club will not open up the two other possible U22 slots had NSC signed a Young Designated Player. Mike Jacobs won’t mind. 

Nashville has elected to lean into a win-now roster while the title window remains open. It may be a decision that the club comes to regret with an aging core, but I cannot fault a club for pushing the chips all in to win silverware. 

Author: Chris IveyChris is a senior writer covering Nashville SC. His writings focus on the team at large and often navigate the complexity of roster building around the myriad of MLS rules. Outside of Broadway Sports Media, Chris resides in Knoxville and is a licensed attorney. Beyond NSC, he is always willing to discuss Tennessee football and basketball, Coventry City, and USMNT. Follow Chris on Twitter

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