Sunderland Under-23 boss Elliott Dickman has declared himself pleased with how preparations have gone this summer on the eve of the new campaign.
The Black Cats host Tottenham Hotspur Under-23s at Eppleton CW tomorrow night (KO 7pm) in the opening Premier League 2 game.
Pre-season results have been a mixed bag, but Dickman has been pleased with the improved performance level from the club’s youngsters.
Several of Under-23 players have caught the eye of Simon Grayson, with Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Elliot Embleton all involved with the first-team squad this pre-season.
Dickman has praised Grayson for giving the younger players the opportunity ahead of the new season.
“Pre-season has gone quite well, the lads have been training well,” said Dickman.
“We are pleased with what we have seen on the grass and the fitness work off the field too. It has been good and we are now really looking forward to Friday night.
“Spending time in Austria with the first team was great – the lads worked really hard and since then we have had games against Sunderland RCA, Blyth, Morpeth and Huddersfield, Barnsley and South Shields.
“We have had mixed results, but the performances improved.
“The good thing was we played against four men’s sides, it was terrific for us. Different challenges for the lads physically but a good test.
“The opposition were more street-wise, they know the game a little better and the tricks to their advantage. Our lads a little bit naive to that, so, from that aspect, it was a terrific experience.
“Pre-season has been good and the messages have been consistent around working hard and being competitive and using the ball sensibly and playing football in the right areas.
“If we can take that into the game on Friday it will be a good game – a tough game.”
Reflecting on the pre-season performances of Maja, Asoro and Embleton, Dickman added: “The gaffer has been great from day one.
“He always said if they catch his eye then they will be in and around it; Josh, Joel and Elliot but also your Tom Beadlings, Ethan Robsons and George Honeyman, too, who had a good start in the game against Derby.
“The gaffer has been fair to the lads and had a good look at them.”
Under-23 duo Denver Hume and Tom Beadling have signed new deals.
Dickman added: “Tom is a little bit older and a bit more experienced and we will be leaning on that experience to help the others to improve this season, those stepping up from the Under-18 squad.”