Sunderland legend reveals how Chris Coleman's show of faith in youth can reap rewards
Last week's win over Hull City was memorable not just for the three points Sunderland badly needed, but also for the amount of young players Chris Coleman put his faith in.
If it wasn’t for a few more experienced players, who also played their part, it was almost an Under-23 line-up.
But while there was a lot of inexperience it was more than made up for with a great attitude and a willingness to leave absolutely nothing on the pitch at the final whistle, which the fans recognised and supported magnificently.
When I saw the team sheet before the game it did take me back to my early days when after a period of being a squad player and only starting games due to injury or suspension, then manager Jimmy Adamson made a decision to go with youth.
Adamson lost patience with some of the older players and decided to go a different way and suddenly a few of us with very little experience became regulars and after a sticky start results changed spectacularly.
Just like against Hull, there were still experienced players in the team though and Bobby Kerr, in particular, was still important and a great role model for the younger players to learn from.
Getting that perfect blend of youth and experience is what a manager will strive for.
The kids will bring a fearless attitude and a positive energy to a dressing room that sometimes can become stale and complacent.
In return, good senior pros will help and guide the younger ones through many pitfalls and in John O’Shea they have the perfect example, as if any of Sunderland’s youngsters have a fraction of the career he has had, they will have done alright.
When we were having that great run all those years ago, when one game finished we couldn’t wait for the next one to start and I expect the current crop to have that same energy and enthusiasm and that can quickly spread throughout the team.
I love seeing young players being given a chance and more importantly grabbing it, but doing it in one game is just the first step, doing it consistently is the hard bit.