Lee Johnson currently has a young and hungry team at his disposal. However, it is not just those around the first team that have impressed this season. Those coming through the academy are showing signs, as displayed in their recent victory over Manchester United in the Papa John’s Trophy that the Sunderland future could be a bright one.
Black Cat’s Youngsters Showing Sunderland Future is Bright
First Team Youngsters
Lee Johnson made the decision this summer to overhaul his first-team squad. Out went several players who were regulars but did not fit Johnson’s vision of having a young team filled with players who could play quick attacking football, who were comfortable on the ball and had the stamina to deal with the rigours of League One.
Promotion For Midfielders
Promoted to the first team were midfielders Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton, both of whom have become regular key players. Embleton recently signed a new contract which will keep him on Wearside until 2025. The 22-year-old has been amongst the goals and assists this season and won the August Goal of the Month award.
Dan Neil’s performances have received praise from fans and staff alike with many tipping him to play for England one day. The 19-year-old scored his first senior goal this season and followed that up with a goal and player of the match performance against Lincoln City in the Papa John’s Trophy. His performances and maturity also resulted in him being given the captain’s armband for the game. Only one other Sunderland player has played more minutes than Neil this season.
A Busy Transfer Window
It was a busy transfer window on Wearside with nine players arriving. Two experienced pros arrived in Corry Evans and Alex Pritchard but the others were young and displayed the attributes Lee Johnson was looking for. Dennis Cirkin arrived from Tottenham Hotspur and has made the left-back position his own. Fellow full-back Niall Huggins has shown he can comfortably play at both right and left-back and contribute effectively in the attack.
22-year-old goalkeeper Thorben Hoffmann signed on loan from Bayern Munich. An initial one-year deal could be made permanent should the Black Cats gain promotion. Hoffman was immediately made Sunderland’s number one and despite some early nerves he has settled well and has become a consistent performer. His ability with the ball at his feet has allowed his team to play out from the back with confidence. Like Hoffman, fellow German Leon Dajaku also arrived on deadline day. The flying winger has featured four times so far, scoring his first goal in the 5-0 victory over Cheltenham Town.
Also arriving on loan were Manchester City defender Callum Doyle, Everton forward Nathan Broadhead and West Ham United defender Frederik Alves. 18-year-old Doyle has been a stand-out performer in the heart of the defence, showing maturity and ability beyond his years. Defensively aware and comfortable on the ball, the youngster has a very bright future ahead of him.
Nathan Broadhead has impressed when he has featured with his pace and directness. However, he was unlucky to be injured during the 5-0 victory over Cheltenham. He has shown that he could cause defenders a lot of problems when fit. 21-year-old Alves has had few opportunities to impress due to the form of Callum Doyle, his defensive partner Tom Flanagan and Bailey Wright ahead of him but looks competent when called upon.
Sunderland Future Looking Bright as Youngsters Show Great Potential
It is not only the youngsters in the first-team squad that are showing that the future of Sunderland is currently in safe hands. Many academy players have featured for the Black Cats this season in the Papa John’s Trophy and excelled.
The young stars have had two games in the cup and have won both. Away at Lincoln City and at home to Manchester United. Many senior debuts have been given to those currently playing for the U18 and U23 sides and they have shown how capable they are by winning both games and progressing to the knockout stages with a game to spare.
Defender Oliver Younger is improving with every game and is close to moving up to the first team. Tyrese Dyce, who made his debut in the 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Wednesday night (October 13) impressed and scored a confidently taken goal. Ellis Taylor and Will Harris have also shown the quality required and Stephen Wearne scored his second goal in only his second first-team game.
After the victory over United, Lee Johnson spoke about the quality of the young players at the club: He told the Sunderland Echo: “I think it’s really important that we show the fans we’re not just working at the top end of the pyramid.
“The first team is the tip of the iceberg, we’re working all the way down and I think you saw that tonight. There’s quality in this club and it’s just about having that clarity so they can bring it out.
“Once you have that you can be free in your play and bring your selling points to the game. When you can trust players on the ball, you know they can step up into the first team pretty easily.”
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