Sunderland’s young guns are expected to be handed more opportunities next season, as the Black Cats bid to improve the pathway from the academy.
Under-21 midfielders Liam Agnew and George Honeyman both made their first-team debuts under Gus Poyet last season, while Mikael Mandron was handed his third Sunderland appearance as a substitute.
But the trio were all limited to brief forays from the bench and were not called into action again.
Winger Duncan Watmore, the Under-21 Premier League Player of the Year, was only an unused substitute under Poyet, while successor Dick Advocaat opted against throwing the 21-year-old into the high-pressure environment of a relegation scrap.
But Sunderland are extremely conscious of the need to promote homegrown talent, with the trio of Watmore, Jordan Pickford and Tom Beadling all earmarked as players with a first-team future.
Watmore is expected to be given a chance to shine during Sunderland’s pre-season campaign, with Advocaat eager to see whether the England Under-20 international can make the step up to the Premier League.
Watmore is expected to be given a chance to shine during Sunderland’s pre-season campaign
“He has to prove it next season,” said the head coach during the final week of last season.
As reported last week, highly-rated goalkeeper Pickford is in line to become Sunderland’s number two keeper as back-up to Costel Pantilimon, if Vito Mannone leaves the Stadium of Light this summer.
And defender Beadling is another pencilled in to be given his chance, with Sunderland harbouring high hopes for the 19-year-old.
With Wes Brown signing a fresh one-year deal and Sunderland still in the market for two new centre-halves, Beadling is likely to be fifth choice if Santiago Vergini is moved on during the transfer window.
But Sunderland are keen to blood Beadling into the first-team picture after he penned a contract with the Black Cats until 2017 last October.
Sunderland could still look to supplement their options in the U21 squad in the transfer market this summer.
However, out-of-contract Sheffield United striker Diego De Girolamo - who Sunderland have watched on several occasions this season - now looks unlikely to move to Wearside.
It is understood that Sunderland have not followed up their interest in De Girolamo, who has also been offered a contract by Italian giants Juventus.