SUNDERLAND youngsters Michael Ledger and Jordan Blinco say their hard work has paid off after penning their first professional contracts with the club.
Ledger and Blinco were two of four young Black Cats to sign deals at the Stadium of Light this week.
This time last season, I thought I wasn’t going to get one. I’ve become more mature.Jordan Blinco
Black Cats’ Under-18 captain Ledger and winger Blinco were joined by goalkeeper James Talbot, and forward Rees Greenwood will become full-time members of the U21 set-up.
The quartet have all impressed for the U18s this season, while Greenwood has already made the step-up to a starting spot in the U21 side - scoring in Monday night’s 3-0 win over West Ham.
Blinco said: “I’m chuffed about it. I’ve worked hard for it.
“And this time last season, I thought I wasn’t going to get one. I’ve become more mature.”
Central defender Ledger’s contract will see him remain at the Stadium of Light until at least the summer of 2017.
He said: “I’m over the moon; it’s exactly what I wanted. It’s what I worked hard for, and it’s just the next step really.”
Another Acadaemy player, Dylan McEvoy, has extended his scholarship for a further year.
McEvoy’s deal means he can go out on work-experience loans but still appear for the Sunderland Under-18 team, other than in the FA Youth Cup.
However, it wasn’t such good news for two other Academy players, Ross Colquhoun and Ryan Ellison.
Under-18 vice-captain Colquhoun has been told he will not be getting a professional contract, and will be released at the end of the season.
He said: “I was sort of preparing for it. When I was told, I wasn’t overly surprised.
“But to be honest, I think it’s a blessing in disguise for me.
“And I’ve got a few trials coming up, so hopefully I can do well there.”
Fellow defender Ellison, who was brought in as a first-year scholar from Manchester City prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, has also been told his contract won’t be extended.
Ellison said: “I think it’s always a confidence blow, but I’ve just got to move on and try another pathway.”