Elliott Dickman gives his verdict on the next generation of teenagers hoping to make it at Sunderland
Sunderland's academy has recently helped nurture a string of first team players and the next generation of hopefuls has won praise, writes Richard Mennear.
Jordan Pickford - who has since moved to Everton for £30million - George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Ethan Robson, Joel Asoro and Josh Maja have all graced the first team over the past 18-months.
And with Chris Coleman leaning heavily on the club’s younger players, it has opened up space in the Under-23 side for the next batch to test themselves at a higher level.
Several Under-18 players featured in Sunderland Under-23s Premier League International Cup exit to Newcastle and they earned praise, with Newcastle eventually winning 11-10 on penalties.
Eighteen-year-olds Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka and Jake Hackett started with Jack Diamond coming off the bench. Brandon Taylor and Elliot Embleton, both 18, also started though Embleton is established in the Under-23 set-up.
Sunderland may have been on the receiving end of a derby defeat to Newcastle but Dickman took plenty of positives.
He added: "The majority of the lads who could be playing Under-23s are with the first team staff and that’s fantastic.
"That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day and it’s great that they’re with the senior team.
"We get the opportunity to give some of the younger lads an opportunity and there’s plenty of positives in that.
"From a learning perspective we had a few Under-18s on the pitch.
"It was young Jack Diamond who moved in the wall and the balls gone through where he was. Because he’s young he’s still learning and he’s got to develop that.
"Hackett and Mbunga-Kimpioka, they did great for the team, as did everybody else within the squad.
"The fact we’re young gives us plenty of positives to take moving forward."
On Mbunga-Kimpioka’s impressive performance down the left wing, Dickman added: "He’s done terrific. There’s Benji, Hackett, Jack Diamond and Lee Connolly.
"We had young Bali Mumba on the bench too, who’s only an Under-16, and maybe it wasn’t the right time to get him on to sample the tournament and a game against Newcastle.
"I’ve picked the younger ones out because they’ve been terrific for us.
"Benji has done well and he really impressed me and he’s got to make sure he keeps playing on a consistent basis like that."