Exclusive: Sunderland's U18 side set for major overhaul after crucial contract decisions are made
Sunderland’s U18 side is set for a significant shake-up after the vast majority of the current squad were told that they would not be retained next season.
It has been a difficult season for the team, who have lost all 16 of their Premier League North fixtures.
Some immensely promising prospects have emerged from the group, and they will likely form a key part of the academy’s future.
Daniel Neil, a promising midfielder, has already committed his future.
Neil has been a regular in the club’s U23 team and made his debut in the 1-0 Checkatrade Trophy win over Morecambe in 2018.
Neil continued to train with the Sunderland first-team under Jack Ross on occasions.
Sunderland also intend to retain Cole Kiernan, a talented striker who has made a major impression since joining the club.
He has scored five goals in the U18 league this season and made his senior debut in the 3-2 EFL Trophy win over Grimsby Town in October last year.
Sunderland will also, of course, retain the services of Bali Mumba, who has another year left to run on his first professional contract.
Mumba is on loan at South Shields, where he has made a major impression by scoring on his first two starts for his hometown club.
The players affected by the decision to overhaul the side have been told they will be supported extensively by the club through their next steps, with the club grateful for their application during what has been a difficult campaign.
Sunderland’s U18 side has suffered from a lack of investment in recent years, and the strength of the side has not been helped by some of the most promising talents being snapped up by major Premier League clubs.
Coach Paul Bryson said earlier this season: “What perhaps the public don't realise is that in a year, we have lost four of our outstanding prospects to big Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool.
“The latest was 16-year-old left back Logan Pye, who was tempted to switch to Man United.
“We cannot offer professional terms until players are 17 so we are powerless to stop this practice. It is very disheartening to lose good players who have been with the club since they were kids.”