Football League clubs are targeting Sunderland’s youngsters – with boss Andy Welsh admitting more players are likely to be heading out on loan.
Sunderland’s young charges are challenging Manchester United for the Premier League Under-21 title so it is no surprise to see dozens of scouts at every game.
But Welsh insists he doesn’t mind seeing his title-chasing side disrupted as it is all part of the players development – provided any loan moves are the ‘right fit’.
He is currently without Lynden Gooch, who is out on loan at League One side Doncaster Rovers, while Charis Mavrias is on loan at German Second Division side Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Midfielders George Honeyman and Rees Greenwood and defender Tom Beadling are among the current crop catching the eye, while striker Mikael Mandron has recently been on loan at Hartlepool United.
The emergency loan window is open for league clubs and when asked whether he anticipates more players heading out the door, Welsh said: “Potentially, yes.
“All our games are heavily scouted by Football League clubs now because we are up there and the players are playing well.
“If, for example, we thought one of the players would benefit from moving somewhere then we would do that for his individual development.
“If the individual development is right, then your team is right, and we are in a good place.
“The development programme here is moving in the right direction and you can see it on a matchday.
“Duncan Watmore has moved up to the senior squad with Jordan Pickford, while George Honeyman, Tommy Robson, Thomas Beadling and Rees Greenwood are around it too.
“It is in a healthy position and we are going in the right direction and we are thankful for that and it is because of the hard work of everybody at the club.
“It is beginning to pay some dividends and Sam Allardyce knows about the young players and is providing a pathway.”
Gooch, a USA Under-20 international, was in fine form for the Under-21s before heading out on loan, scoring five goals in ten appearances in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
Welsh admits his departure was a blow but insists the Under-21 set-up is aimed at development, with the ultimate aim of improving the first team.
“Of course it does,” added Welsh, when asked if losing the likes of Gooch and Mavrias affects his side.
“Losing the quality of those players will have an affect on any side but we have to have a look at what is best for their development.
“We talk a lot about the team but we are here to develop players for the first team and that can never not be the main objective of what we are trying to achieve, every day.
“You have to accept that, within this particular group. Every club has to deal with that situation.
“You still want the team to be competitive though as the season approaches the end and some of the younger ones then need to come through and be the next phase.
“In the past few games we have had Andrew Nelson, Dan Wright, Ethan and Josh Robson from Under-18 level and it does give us the opportunity to see how they can cope.
“Dan Casey too, an Under-18 centre-half.
“It is all experience for them and bodes well for the future,” added Welsh, whose side beat Middlesbrough 3-2 at the Stadium of Light earlier this week to leave them two points behind leaders Manchester United.