Charlie Methven's academy pledge as Sunderland look to keep investing in local talent
Charlie Methven says the club's academy remains central to the new ownership's vision for future success.
Relegation from the Championship in the summer meant that the Black Cats became the only club in the third tier to run a Category One academy.
Blackburn Rovers are the only other club to have made that commitment in such a lowly division.
Academy One status requires significant investment on an annual basis, but Methven says the club will look to protect it even if promotion is not secured this season.
He says Sunderland want to be ‘expansive’ about the academy.
“We’re totally committed to Category 1 status,” Methven said.
“I’d go even further than that. If you look at the cost base of the club ultimately being maybe around £23, 24 million a year, and you subtract the £3,4 million that the academy costs, then the rest of the club breaks even. The academy then becomes an annual investment by us that then you then hope will be repaid at some stage by players being sold.
“I know that fans don’t like to hear that because you want to keep all your best players, but in reality, from time to time a player will be sold, like Jordan Pickford or Jordan Henderson. Then your patience is rewarded amply, you don’t then need to justify the money you are spending year on year.
“We are totally committed to it, from a footballing perspective, which is why we put in place a management team that believes in playing young players,” Methven added.
“From a financial perspective, we believe it’s right thing, we actually think it is much harder to justify running a category two or three academy.
“Finally, we believe that in it from a community perspective. If Sunderland is to be what it should be, it needs to be the dominant academy in the region, reaching out to schools, local clubs and having strong partnerships. That’s what Paul Reid is really set on expanding in his role. So we feel expansive towards the academy, rather than cutting it back.”
Methven identified the academy as a crucial component to the club’s future right from day one, even name checking Borussia Dortmund as a side who had shown the potential value in bringing through young players who can develop a significant value for the club.
Under Jack Ross a number of youngsters have begun to nail down a first team place and flourish in the third tier.
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Josh Maja, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch have all become vital players in the push for promotion, while Denver Hume has impressed when fit.
Bali Mumba has broken into the senior set up and while Ethan Robson has endured injury frustration, he is a player Ross believes could go on to have a big impact in the future.
The club were able to agree a professional deal with Mumba after the talented midfielder turned 17 last month.
Manager Jack Ross said that was a ‘real statement of intent’.
The England U18 international has been linked with Premier League giants Manchester City and Chelsea.
“We are delighted to be able to retain our best young players and our most promising players,” Ross said.
“I think for the club as a whole it is a really good reflection on the academy.
“They have brought him through and now he wants to stay. He is undoubtedly someone who will attract attention throughout the country because of his ability but hopefully it is a real statement of our intent about how we want to move the club forward.”
The Black Cats are equally keen to secure Josh Maja, Denver Hume and Lynden Gooch to new deals.
All three see their current contracts expire in the summer but talks are progressing and all have expressed a willingness to stay.
Captain George Honeyman is also out of contract in 2019 but chairman Stewart Donald recently revealed that he is set to trigger an automatic extension.