SIMON Mignolet believes Sunderland’s young guns will return for pre-season training hungry to impress after being granted their Premier League opportunity.
Paolo Di Canio had just 10 senior outfield players available for last weekend’s final-day clash at Tottenham after seeing his already depleted squad reduced by the absence of another four players.
On-loan Danny Rose was ineligible to play against his parent club, Kader Mangane was ruled out through injury and Di Canio left out Phil Bardsley and Matt Kilgallon as a disciplinary measure for a late night visit to the casino to celebrate Sunderland’s Premier League survival.
That forced Di Canio to name a bench entirely composed of academy products, other than goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
In the second half, 18-year-old Mikael Mandron was sent on for only his second Sunderland appearance, while Billy Knott, 20, and Adam Mitchell, 18, made their Premier League bows.
And Sunderland stopper Mignolet says that experience of the top flight will have given the trio a taste of what they can achieve in their footballing development.
Mignolet told the Football Echo: “One of the positives from last weekend was the young lads who have gained a bit of experience.
“It’s not only playing the game, but also going away with the first-team and seeing what it’s all about to prepare yourself for a Premier League match.
“That will give them a boost and they’ll come back into pre-season with a lot more hunger to play.”
Winger Mitchell, in particular, received a harsh lesson in the chasm with the Premier League after watching Gareth Bale step inside him and unleash a scorching left-footed shot into the top corner from 25 yards in the 89th minute.
That brought an end to Sunderland’s stubborn defensive resistance after Di Canio’s makeshift back four had performed doggedly to thwart Tottenham’s Champions League ambitions.
And although a draw would have made no difference to Sunderland’s final league position, Mignolet admits it would have been heartening to end the season with a positive result.
“If you stay organised as a unit, then you make it easier for yourselves individually,” added the 24-year-old, in the Belgium squad for Wednesday’s friendly in the USA.
“As a back four, we did well.
“It wouldn’t have made any difference to the table, but a point and a clean sheet in the last game would have been a nice end to the season.
“We just have to take the good things from the performance and take that into next season.
“We did our best against a very good Tottenham side, who wanted to win very badly.
“So to put in a performance like that, we can take a lot of credit.”