Thus far the transfer window has not been productive. The early captures of Aiden O’Brien and Bailey Wright from Millwall and Bristol City respectively excited the fans. However, since then, Sunderland have been quiet in the market. With such a short time to build a squad, Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson may look towards the club’s young proteges to step up to the plate.
Sunderland May Have to Look Towards the Academy
Gaps in the Squad
Plenty of players left Sunderland following the curtailment of League One back in March. The contracts of Joel Lynch, Tommy Smith, Kyle Lafferty, Alim Ozturk and Duncan Watmore all expired. Highly-rated midfielder Ethan Robson also left the Stadium of Light to join League One rivals Blackpool alongside first-choice goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, who left for Scottish giants Rangers.
All this is to say, Sunderland’s squad is threadbare. Phil Parkinson is left with just one first-team goalkeeper, with youngster Anthony Patterson seeking a loan move. For the boss’ 3–4–3 system, only three centre-halves are on the books. This is not enough depth. With just Denver Hume able to play left wing-back, Sunderland need additions — and fast.
Not Enough Additions
Meanwhile, talks of takeover are dominating the discourse amongst fans. Stewart Donald appears disillusioned with the club. 235 days after he put the club up for sale, a deal is no closer to being complete.
The importance of this is that, like last summer, little-to-no money is likely to be spent. The summer of 2019 was hindered by the looming takeovers from both Mark Campbell and FPP, with the former actually being introduced as the new boss to then-manager Jack Ross.
In the background, the squad gradually grew weaker than the side that failed in the 2019 play-off final against Charlton. The same appears to be happening this time around too.
So little names are linked with a move to Wearside and, therefore, Phil Parkinson may choose to fill the squad with academy talent. This may be a positive for Sunderland after the controversial departures of young talent over the last 12 months.
Which Players Could Step up to the Plate?
Jack Diamond is a player that Sunderland fans are hearing more about this summer. The young winger spent the 2019/20 season at the recently promote Harrogate Town in the National League. The 20-year old impressed, picking up the man-of-the-match award in the play-off final, in which he scored.
Diamond picked up nearly 2000 minutes of first-team football, scoring three goals in the process. The step up to League One may prove too much for him, but, with the departures of Watmore and Benji Kimpioka, there is a spot to take. Diamond’s raw pace and directness is something Sunderland lack so Parkinson may want him in and around the squad.
Brandon Taylor is a ball-playing centre-half and recently signed a one-year extension with the club. Taylor has been at the club since the age of nine and has made three first-team appearances.
The 21-year old impressed manager Phil Parkinson in the FA Cup tie against Gillingham back in January, so may have tabs on him coming into the new campaign. Despite his lack of experience, Taylor had interest from Premier League clubs this summer. The opportunity for first-team football kept him on Wearside. With such lack of depth at centre-half, too, fans may have to get used to Brandon Taylor featuring for the first team this season.
Anthony Patterson is currently the under-23’s goalkeeper. During pre-season, he has been training with the first-team as cover for Lee Burge.
Though a loan would be the best option for all parties, Patterson can provide ample competition for Burge. The 20-year old stopper has impressed in a struggling youth setup and has been likened to former academy talent Jordan Pickford.
Patterson, like Taylor, recently signed a new contract at Sunderland, and is impressing Phil Parkinson. A loan move appears to be in the pipeline, but a clear pathway to the first-team is in sight for the youngster.
Phil Parkinson told the Sunderland Echo, “He is obviously still young and what he needs now is to go out and get some experience of senior football, so we will look to loan him out in the early part of next season.”
Use the Academy - or Risk Losing It
It is widely known that the Academy of Light is an excellent complex for developing players. Its category one status means it is recognised as one of the best in the country. Despite this, Sunderland rarely introduce players into the first-team.
Even during such a plight, Josh Maja, Denver Hume and George Honeyman are the only academy players to force their way into the team. Two of those have since left the club. Elliot Embleton is on the verge of breaking through as he recovers from injury, but Sunderland could utilise the academy players so much more.
Bali Mumba left the club along with fellow hot prospects Logan Pye and Joe Hugill. Mumba didn’t receive a fair chance in the first-team, instead he shipped out to South Shields on loan. His new manager, Daniel Farke, said he is going to be immediate backup for Max Aarons at Carrow Road.
The management and coaching staff surely realise that the Academy of Light is rich full of hot talents. It is essential, therefore, that these players are shown a pathway to the first team. The arrival of the League One salary cap makes it even more important, as under-21 players are exempt.
Both from a footballing and business sense, it is a straight-forward answer to use the academy. There are plenty of suitors for Sunderland’s young talent, showcased by the recent exodus to Premier League and Championship suitors.
This season, Sunderland must show intent on giving younger players minutes, or face yet another exodus of talent. Selling these players so young means Sunderland lose out on millions of pounds. Especially in these times, Sunderland cannot afford to miss out on millions.
Embed from Getty Images