David Jones on tackling Sunderland's big academy challenges after 'disappointing' departures
David Jones says Sunderland are ‘workking hard’ to prevent further departures from the club’s academy.
The departure of promising youngsters has been one of the key sources of supporter discontent and anger with the Madrox regime over the last two years.
That frustration grew with the departures of Joe Hugill and Logan Pye earlier this year, before reaching a crescendo when Bali Mumba left to sign for Norwich City.
Sunderland’s U18 and U23 sides have been affected as a result, failing to win a game between them in league action last season.
The club began their recruitment for the upcoming season by announcing the additions of Sam Wilding, Vinnie Steels and Bobby Beaumont, with many required to complete the squad.
The new salary cap rules, which exempt players under the age of 21, have made youth recruitment and progression more important than ever.
Jones, who joined the board as a non-executive director late last year, told the Foundation of Light’s fixtures breakfast that the club are acutely aware of that and are enacting changes as a response to the regular departures.
The first round of interviews for a new academy manager have taken place following the departure of Paul Reid earlier this summer.
“We're working as hard to bring in targets for the academy as we are for the first team group,” Jones said.
“These U21s now have real bonus value, so if you can get some good young players then you're on the right path.
“It's really tough [to stop players seeking Premier League moves] and it's a challenge that we're really working on.
“I'd be lying if I said that I was happy with the business that's gone on in the last few months and years.
“We've lost some very promising players and that's hugely disappointing.
“It's something we're working on, we've made some changes within the academy and we'll make some more, including appointing a new academy manager.
“It has to be a learning experience for the whole of the football club, the value of getting good young players who want to play for Sunderland, letting them see a pathway to the first team.
“Phil [Parkinson] is embracing this as well and he'll be a vital component in this, letting the parents see that there can be an exciting future here.”
Jones also believes that there is a crop of promising youngsters who will have a part to play in the coming years, with a number potentially set to feature against Gateshead in the club’s first pre-season friendly on Saturday afternoon.
“Elliot Embleton is flying in training, you don't want to put too much pressure on the lad but he looks really good,” Jones said.
“Jack Diamond is training with the first team group on a daily basis for the first time and he looks a fantastic prospect who we've got to look after.
“It's the same with Dan Neil, who has stepped up and is training with the group, he looks a very accomplished central midfielder player.”