FIT-AGAIN Carlos Cuellar demonstrated his quality after hitting the comeback trail with Sunderland Under-21s, believes development coach Kevin Ball, writes Chris Young.
Cuellar, one of eight Sunderland players out of contract at the end of the season, resumed full training last month after 10 weeks on the sidelines with a hip injury.
But with John O’Shea and Wes Brown holding down the starting spots in Sunderland’s central defence, along with the capture of on-loan Santiago Vergini in the January transfer window, Cuellar has had little opportunity to work his way back to full fitness.
Cuellar impressed as he completed 90 minutes for the U21s in yesterday’s 1-0 win over Fulham though, as Ball’s side moved up to fourth in the table.
Ball told the Echo: “I thought Carlos was outstanding. His attitude before and during the game to the rest of the players was excellent.
“He wanted to get as much out of it as possible and I think the other lads saw that. He read the game very well.
“It was interesting some of his style of passing how he just fed it into players with the right weight.
“The experience he exuded was awesome.
“From our players’ point of view, they looked at that to see what they need to do.
“It benefited our players from the result too because we want to win as many games as possible.”
Cuellar was one of five members of the first-team squad involved in front of the watching Gus Poyet, with Valentin Roberge, Ondrej Celustka, Charis Mavrias and El-Hadji Ba also featuring.
And Ball believes it is essential that those who drop down to U21 level act as role models to the academy graduates.
“It’s important that the players who drop down understand that these are young lads with aspirations to be footballers and you want them to look up to them,” he added.
“They need the right attitudes and I think they did that.
“We’ve had a young team recently because we’ve got a lot of players out on loan.
“But I thought the first-team players gave a very good account of themselves.
“You still have to consider that Mav and El-Hadji are well under 21.
“Carlos was coming back from injury and with Ondrej and Roberge needing game-time, it was an ideal opportunity to play them.”