Ex-Sunderland defender on what the club’s youngsters must do to impress Simon Grayson

Josh Maja scores a penalty for Sunderland.
Josh Maja scores a penalty for Sunderland.
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Darren Holloway believes a number of Black Cats youngsters could get a chance in the first team squad and urged them to “knuckle down” and impress new manager Simon Grayson, writes Mark Carruthers.

In his role as Blyth Spartans assistant manager, Holloway was able to witness the resources that Elliott Dickman and Cliff Byrne can offer the new Black Cats boss on Tuesday night.

The newly-promoted National League North club inflicted a 3-2 defeat on the Black Cats youngsters.

But Holloway saw enough in the Black Cats side to suggest that some of them could offer Grayson something to think about ahead of the Championship season.

Holloway said: “I know there are a few that have been floating around the first team and I know from talking to Elliott and Cliffy that four or five have been training with the first team.

“I think that is really important for them to be in and around that environment, playing alongside international players and experienced players.

“They have come to us as a non-league club because it’s a dose of reality for them. We are a non-league club at Spartans but we are men, they are relatively young and inexperienced so hopefully they can learn from the game and continue their development by training with the Sunderland first team.

“A couple caught the eye but the challenge for them is to knuckle down and impress Simon Grayson.”

Holloway made over 50 appearances for Sunderland under Peter Reid and experienced life in the Premier League and the Championship during his career.

Relegation can often hand young players an opportunity to break into the first team and Holloway believes that the Black Cats demotion can offer their youngsters a route into the first team.

“The relegation can benefit them, definitely,” admitted Holloway.

“In reality, you aren’t getting as many international players coming to a Championship club.

“The level of player you need to be isn’t what it is in the Premier League. It is a steep learning curve in the Championship and if they get a chance they need to learn from every game.”