Exeter City prodigy Josh Key has admitted his performances were affected somewhat by summer speculation linking him with a move to Sunderland.

Sunderland were heavily linked with Key during the summer transfer window, but he ended up remaining with Exeter City.

It was reported that the Black Cats made four bids for the 21-year-old in the summer, with the final bid coming in at over £1m.

However, with a move failing to materialise, Key has now opened up on the summer links with a move away, admitting it affected his performances in the early stages of the season.

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Speaking on the links (quotes via the Sunderland Echo), Key has admitted it was “tough” as he wasn’t sure where he would be plying his trade come the end of the window.

He went on to reveal that talks with Grecians boss Matty Taylor helped put his mind at ease, getting his focus back onto on-pitch matters. Here’s what Key had to say:

“It is tough as your head is not quite in it as thinking where you could be playing does play a role.

“But Matty [Taylor] gave me clear advice to focus on performances as that is what takes you places.

“I struggled the first few games but having the right people around me kept me grounded.”

Key’s season so far

Despite, by his own admission, struggling in the first few games, Key has performed well for Exeter City recently.

He has successfully held down his starting spot on the right-hand side, playing in all 12 League Two games so far. Along the way, he has chipped in with two goals and two assists, helping keep four clean sheets.

Key’s contributions this season take him to 64 appearances for the first-team since coming through the Grecians’ esteemed academy, managing four goals and seven assists in the process.