Why Jack Ross is turning to Sunderland's academy squad to help ease injury blows
Following a series of injuries and the odd suspension, Jack Ross was forced to call on some of the club's academy prospects on Tuesday night.
Fortunately, the manager was well aware of Benjamin Kimpioka and Jack Diamond, who have regularly featured for the under-23 side this campaign, and the pair were handed their first league call-ups for the senior side against Peterborough at the Stadium of Light.
Some may think it should be the norm for managers to keep an eye on their club’s rising stars, however that isn’t always the case - even at the highest level.
But Ross and his staff have regularly watched the young Black Cats in Premier League 2, Division 2, this campaign, while taking a keen interest in the academy.
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It's been a difficult start to the season for Elliott Dickman’s under-23 side, who have won just one of their first seven games, but Ross has offered his full support ever since the Scot's arrival on Wearside.
“To be fair to the manager and to James (Fowler) and to John (Potter), they’ve been great with us and great with the lads, and obviously the academy manager is pushing them as well which is fantastic,” said Dickman following his side’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Monday.
“Within the football club we have a lot of people who are supporting what we do and believe in what we’re doing, and ultimately they’re very keen on having individuals coming through.”
Kimpioka came on in stoppage time against the Posh, and Ross has backed the 18-year-old to push for more opportunities this season.
With Charlie Wyke out injured and Duncan Watmore still edging back to full fitness, the Swedish teenager may receive more game time sooner than he thought.
The club are also in a precarious position financially, and are unlikely to spend significantly in the January transfer window.
That could provide more opportunities for younger players in the academy, which has developed the likes of Josh Maja, Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman, Denver Hume, Joel Asoro and Jordan Pickford in recent years.
At present, Dickman is managing a younger group compared to previous years, and despite some heavy defeats at the hands of Newcastle and Wolves, he believes the players are making progress.
“I know externally there are a lot of people who aren’t too happy with the results, we aren’t either, of course we’re not," said Dickman.
“But at the same time our job is to get though the next crop of young players and that is the bigger picture.
“We want to win, we don’t want to get beat 7-0 every week, but the fact that we have an average of five players in our first-team squad every matchday from the academy speaks volumes of the work that goes on.”
Despite valued support from the senior manager, Dickman has been allowed to get on with his job without interference from above.
“They (the first-team staff) are here to watch the players, to make sure the players are developing, keeping an eye on the players because you never know one day you might need them and anything can happen within the club.
“For me it’s important for this to happen because it shows the young lads they actually care about them.
“As a young player what’s better than playing for the manager and the first-team staff.”