Disappointed Sunderland sporting director Kristjaan Speakman reacts as Francis Okoronkwo joins Everton

Sunderland sporting director Kristjaan Speakman has expressed his disappointment after it was confirmed hot academy prospect Francis Okoronkwo has joined Everton.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 5:02 pm

The deal for the 16-year-old forward is reported to be worth up to £1million but no details have been released regarding the fee.

The youngster, who was invited to an AC Milan training camp five years ago, has long been earmarked as a potential star by academy chiefs at Sunderland who are keen to develop young players and show them a pathway through to the first team.

However, he now becomes the latest in a long line of youngsters to leave League One Sunderland in recent years

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Sunderland have lost a number of graduates in recent years, including Joe Hugill and Logan Pye to Manchester United last summer, Bali Mumba to Norwich City, Sam Greenwood (Arsenal, now Leeds) and Luca Stephenson (Liverpool).

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman said: “We are disappointed that Francis and his family took the decision to leave the football club earlier this summer, as we demonstrated a clear pathway for him to continue his development into the first-team environment.

“Throughout the summer, we have displayed our ability to retain and attract young talent and we have started to honour our long-term commitment that our homegrown players will be integral to our philosophy and future success.

"Although we are disappointed Francis will not be a part of that process, we wish him and his family well.”

The club statement added: “All at SAFC wish Francis the very best of luck for the future.”

In a bid to show Okoronkwo how highly he was regarded at Sunderland, he was invited to the Papa John’s Trophy final to watch alongside the senior players unavailable for the game. He had been invited along by Kristjaan Speakman & Co as part of his footballing education.

Sunderland had hoped Okoronkwo was to be one of the next talents off the production line at the AoL. He has impressed the coaching staff with his ability and attitude, and has already featured heavily for the U18s last season.

He was invited to travel to Wembley and watched alongside Aiden O’Brien, Dion Sanderson, Bailey Wright, Arbenit Xhemajli, Carl Winchester and Denver Hume.

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