While the senior squad’s fortunes on the field have been nothing short of dire, Sunderland’s Under-21 side have been making headlines for the right reasons.
The young Black Cats beat Athletic Bilbao to make it through to the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup, while they also sit five points clear of Spurs at the top of the Barclay’s Under-21 Premier League table.
With Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch both on the periphery of first-team action we picked out three more young players to watch out for from the Sunderland youth system conveyor belt.
The 20-year-old left back has long been touted as a future first-team player and has been ever-present in the Under 21’s starting eleven for the past two seasons.
Patrick van Aanholt, the only recognised left-back in the first-team squad, has struggled for form this year. Right-back Billy Jones has been preferred at left-back in recent matches, and there have been calls from some fans to give Robson a chance.
There is interest in taking Robson out on loan and it may be that this is the best route for Robson to take to further his development.
Having signed from Chelsea’s youth set-up in the summer, French-born Brady has made a massive difference at the heart of an Under 21’s defence that has kept six clean sheets in all competitions this season.
The nephew of West Ham vice-chairman Karen Brady, the centre-half looked composed on the ball and possesses a good footballing brain, while he made a key block in the first half to deny a certain goal for the visitors.
Still only 18, Brady has time to develop into a leading Premier League centre-half and it will be interesting to see how his development continues in the Under-21 squad.
The French striker is the Under 21’s top goalscorer with five goals alongside Gooch and Watmore, carrying a real presence at Under-21 level.
With Sunderland struggling in front of goal, Mandron could offer a solution.
At 6ft 2”, Mandron’s height and physicality would theoretically work well in the 4-5-1 system Allardyce deployed at the weekend. However a record of one goal in 14 League Two games, while on loan at Fleetwood and Shrewsbury may suggest he may not be able to cut it in the first-team, and he didn’t look on the same level as Danny Graham against Bilbao.
Nonetheless, his Under-21 form should still be monitored.