O’Neill turns to Sunderland youngsters in South Korea

Louis Laing

Louis Laing

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MARTIN O’Neill will give youth a chance this week.

And fringe players too will get an opportunity to catch his eye as the Black Cats contest the Peace Cup in South Korea.

The Sunderland boss flew out from the North East today without many of his natural first team squad on board.

And that has put an emphasis on the young prospects and those hoping to stake their claims for next season.

It’s not the ideal situation going into a tournament which offers significant prize money to the winners.

But O’Neill says that’s no bad thing, having always planned to use the trip as a chance to experiment anyway.

He told the Echo: “I said before the end of the season that the Peace Cup would be an opportunity for a lot of players to get more involvement than they had done previously.

“And it has turned out, we’re taking a very youthful squad out there and they will get a chance to show what they can do.

“One or two of the young lads might not get to play in the games but that shouldn’t matter too much – the fact is that the trip and the experience will benefit them and they’ll have the chance to work closely with the first team.”

Sunderland will be without rested internationals John O’Shea, James McClean, Keiren Westwood, Seb Larsson, Stephane Sessegnon and Ahmed Elmohamady.

Ji Dong-won will miss the competition in his home country because of his call up to the Olympic football squad while Phil Bardsley and Matt Kilgallon withdrew at the weekend with injuries.

That will give great opportunities to the likes of Billy Knott, Louis Laing, John Egan, Craig Lynch, Adam Reed, Ryan Noble, Roarie Deacon, Ben Wilson, Jordan Pickford and Blair Adams, who trained with the first-team squad last week and headed out with the rest of the tour party today.

But perhaps those who will be looking forward to the trip are the ones who were on the outer edges of the first team under O’Neill last season and are desperate to make their mark in the weeks ahead.

This could be a big tournament for the likes of Connor Wickham, Fraizer Campbell, David Meyler and David Vaughan.

And O’Neill conceded: “I know that a few of the lads didn’t get as many minutes on the pitch last season as they would have liked. And because we’re making this trip without quite a few senior players, for one reason or another, this is a great chance for those players to come to the fore.”

Sunderland squad for Peace Cup: Adams, Bramble, Brown, Campbell, Cattermole, Colback, Cuellar, Deacon, Egan, Gardner, Knott, Laing, Lynch, Meyler, Mignolet, Noble, Pickford, Reed, Richardson, Turner, Vaughan, Wickham, Wilson.