David Moyes admits that Sunderland’s youngsters are being asked to take on more responsibility than they are perhaps ready for due to the club’s chronic injury problems.
But the Black Cats boss believes they will be better players for it in the long run – IF Sunderland can turn around their dire start to the season.
The club remains winless and bottom of the Premier League.
Sunderland were missing nine first-team players through injury for the 2-0 weekend defeat at Stoke City, including key first-team players Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole.
It meant Moyes had little choice other than to field a youthful, patched-up side against Mark Hughes’ Potters, who ultimately proved too strong thanks to Joe Allen’s first-half brace.
Moyes handed starts to 21-year-old Paddy McNair and 22-year-olds Didier Ndong, Javier Manquillo, Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore at the bet365 Stadium.
Among his subs were Lynden Gooch, 20, Donald Love, 21, and 17-year-old striker Joel Asoro.
Moyes admits Sunderland are missing the experience of the older players.
“You need players with experience and those who’ve been there and done it a little more often, because I think they can see you through and understand better the nature of where you are,” said Moyes.
“I just think against Stoke we had Didier, Paddy, Jordan, Javier, Duncan – that is a lot of young players.
“The choice was to get young players in the hope that with them playing they’ll eventually get better and go on to make really good players.
“But you try not to use them all in the one hit if you can help it – I think we are just missing a little more experience.”
Patrick van Aanholt was the latest player to be added to the casualty list, with the Dutch left-back limping off after 40 minutes with an adductor problem.
Fit-again Billy Jones replaced him, while Moyes also welcomed back Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe to the Sunderland squad after injury.
But he remains without nine senior players.
With a limited squad to start with, it means Moyes has no option other than to play the club’s younger players and heap more responsibility onto them.
When asked it if is harder to keep the spirits up of younger players after a series of defeats, Moyes added: “I think in the case of young players they are not seeing a result at the end of it.
“Some are doing well and some are coming on, but they are having to take on an even bigger responsibility, a bigger role than maybe they are ready to do at this moment in time.
“We have to try to get some of our players back from injury to give us a squad, but having Steven and Victor come on helped.
“Steven helped us keep the ball a bit better and Victor won us a few challenges. But there’s been little up front except Jermain to give us an alternative or to play together.”
Sunderland are rooted to the foot of the table, with just two points from their opening eight league matches.
When asked if the tough situation facing the club currently will make men of the younger players, Moyes said it is an experience that will stand them in good stead.
The Sunderland boss added: “If they do come through and we come through, it will be an experience they remember because they’ll know how you need to grind it out, dig deep.
“When you are looking for solutions to win games sometimes it isn’t necessarily good football, there’s no real prescription, you need to find some way to get a goal or hang into the game.”
Next up is a trip to West Ham. The Hammers won at Crystal Palace to lift themselves out of the bottom three.