GUS POYET says his long-term vision for Sunderland is to give the club’s homegrown players a chance to stake their first-team credentials.
Academy graduates Mikael Mandron, Adam Mitchell and Billy Knott were all given their Premier League debuts at the end of last season after injuries left Sunderland down to the bare bones.
But with the Black Cats squad back to full-strength this season, Jack Colback has been the only player off the club’s production line to feature under either Poyet or predecessor Paolo Di Canio.
Poyet eventually wants a squad of around 23 senior professionals at his disposal, with those players all capable of holding down a starting spot.
But if injuries strike, Poyet is eager to see players in the Under-21 ranks ready to make the step up to the first-team, rather than the club having to make emergency moves in the transfer market.
Poyet told the Echo: “Eventually I would like to have 23 players in the first-team, 24 max.
“And then I want to know 100 per cent that I’ve got five players in the U21s that when I need them, they can step up.
“I’m not talking about five coming up together because that wouldn’t be easy. But one at a time in different positions.
“Then you know if something happens in a position and you get an injury or suspension, you’ve got two players who can give you some competition.”
Poyet has taken a more pro-active interest in the crop of players coming through the ranks than Di Canio, with the Under-21s squad given the opportunity to train alongside the first-team.
The head coach has also been a regular spectator of Kevin Ball’s side, both in the U21 Premier League and in behind-closed-doors friendlies.
And while Poyet will not impose a definitive brand of football on development coach Ball, the former Brighton boss is keen to see a common thread throughout the club - running from the youth team up to first-team level.
He added: “You need a system throughout the club. You can call it an identity.
“I don’t want the U21s to be exactly the same as the first-team.
“But with the general basics, yes there should be a similarity and with the U18s as well.
“They need to have a similar idea so when I need two to train in international week, they’re okay and they feel comfortable.
“They’re not suddenly doing the opposite to what they’re used to in training.”