Why Sunderland's youngsters will be given the chance to impress this season
If you're good enough - you're old enough.
That’s the message to the next generation of Sunderland youngsters aiming to break into the first team squad on a regular basis this season.
The club’s younger players have made an instant and positive impression on new boss David Moyes, with Joel Asoro the stand-out performer from the tour of France.
Rees Greenwood, Tommy Robson, Lynden Gooch, Josh and Ethan Robson also impressed on the banks of Lake Geneva as they look to follow in the footsteps of Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore in making the step up.
Prior to being promoted to first-team coach by Sam Allardyce, Robbie Stockdale was in charge of the club’s Under-21 side and is well aware of the talent coming through the ranks.
And he has been pleased with their performances so far this pre-season.
“They’ve had absolutely no problems,” Stockdale told the Echo.
“We started the transition very early on with myself, Brace [Paul Bracewell] and Sam, and they have been training several times with us during the week.
“It’s not a case of we’ll make do with the numbers we have got.
“If they are good enough they will come up and have the opportunity.
“With the environment they are coming from in the Academy, yes it’s still a big step but it’s not as daunting as it might have been in the past.”
Stockdale, meanwhile, has impressed Moyes on the coaching field, with the new manager keeping faith with the staff he inherited, with possible additions in future.
“It’s always different when you come away and you start with a new manager,” added Stockdale.
“All we can do as staff is to be honest with him and tell him our thoughts and what he needs to know.
“But ultimately he is the boss and we will have to find the way that he likes to do things.
“All managers are different, and as a coach you have to be able to adapt to every situation.”
Sunderland conclude their pre-season programme against Borussia Dortmund at the Cashpoint Arena, in Austria, tonight (kick-off 5.45pm UK time).
The level of opposition has gradually stepped up over the course of pre-season, with two games against Ligue 1 sides during the week-long training camp in France.
German giants Dortmund offer the toughest test yet.
“That was the plan, and now we finish our pre-season against Dortmund which will be a tough game but a good one which will get people excited,” added Stockdale.
“The heat in France was a lot more intense than we are used to, and probably what we were expecting.
“We went over a couple of weeks ago to check the surroundings, and it wasn’t as hot.
“That heat was energy-sapping, and you could see even in the warm-up the lads have to take drinks breaks.
“But we were over there to work hard and hopefully we will see the benefits of having worked in conditions like those.”
Sunderland have faced a busy pre-season schedule with a week-long training camp in Austria followed by domestic friendlies against Hartlepool United and Rotherham ahead of last week’s three-game tour of France.
Stockdale says the players enjoyed the best facilities in Evian-les-Bains with the coaching staff pleased with the way the week went.
“It was always the plan to go to Austria and not have any games, to just train,” added Stockdale.
“Then to go to France, I think the surroundings that we were training in - using the base that Germany used for Euro 2016 - has meant that the facilities have been second to none.
“We’ve had the best, and when you walk up to the training pitch and the environment is good, it helps.
“We had a good week.”
This summer’s schedule has been less demanding on the players when it comes to travelling.
In 2015 the squad jetted to America and Canada but this year has seen trips to Austria and France - with the players spending more time on the training pitches.
Asked about the improved fitness levels, Stockdale added: “I wasn’t really involved with the first team this time last year.
“But the boys have worked hard and, considering the numbers in the squad, they’ve done very well but the proof of the pudding will be the first few competitive games.”