SUNDERLAND chairman Ellis Short cast his eye over the club’s next generation after watching the Black Cats Under-21s beat Chelsea last night.
Short was in the stands at the Stadium of Light to see Sunderland record a fifth win in six games after Duncan Watmore’s goal proved to be sufficient to put a dent in Chelsea’s aspirations of lifting the U21 Premier League.
We all want the first-team to win first and foremost, and if we can support that with players from the academy, fantastic.Robbie Stockdale
It has been a productive campaign for the U21s, with George Honeyman, Liam Agnew and Mikael Mandron all featuring for the first team, while the likes of Watmore, Tommy Robson and Tom Beadling have all been on the bench.
And while none have managed to establish themselves in the first-team picture, development coach Robbie Stockdale insists they have to be patient enough to believe that their chance will come along.
“We’ve had some debuts this season, we’d like more, but we understand that takes time,” said Stockdale.
“It’s consistency as much as anything (which will get them into the first-team regularly).
“They need opportunity too, but then they need to be good enough to take the opportunities which come.
“We all want the first-team to win first and foremost, and if we can support that with players from the academy, fantastic.
“The debut age for the Premier League is going up, so they need to be patient and keep waiting for the chances to come.
“But if they’re good enough, I’ve got no doubt that the chance will come.”
It’s been an excellent end to the season for Stockdale’s men, who have won five and drawn one of their final run of games.
And while player development, rather than results, remains the primary objective of the academy system, Stockdale admits the two still need to go hand-in-hand.
The ex-Middlesbrough defender added: “I think it’s a reward for the application of the players. They deserve all the credit.
“It’s not about winning, it’s progressing the players, but they must have that mentality that it means something to them.
“There’s no point saying we played well, but got beat.
“The togetherness and attitude of the team has produced those results, with some good football as well.
“The players are so eager to progress and improve, it’s a fantastic situation to be in when you’ve got a group of players like that. You can see with the results we’ve had that they give it a right good go.”