Jack Diamond exclusive: "There’s no reason why I can’t get into Sunderland's first team"
“It’s a step in the right direction.”
Few young players would see moving from Sunderland to Harrogate as a positive move, but Jack Diamond has a maturity that defies his youthful exterior.
The 19-year-old is under no illusions that his move to the National League North - while perhaps a step backwards in the short-term - will yield long-term benefits.
“Everyone in football goes on loan,” he said, in an exclusive interview with the Echo.
“Even in the Premier League, Harry Kane went out on loan.
“You have to get that first-team football before you play because you’re a young player, inexperienced, and you always look more appealing to a manager when you have a few first-team games under your belt.
“It’s a step in the right direction, really.”
Diamond’s attitude is a refreshing one, given many players can be reluctant to leave the comforts of a facility such as the Academy of Light for perhaps more basic surroundings.
That wasn’t an issue that fazed the young forward, though.
“It took a bit of adapting, but the fact Sunderland have excellent facilities and everything is given to you - it’s 15 minutes from my home - Harrogate, I’m driving an hour and a bit.
“But they do a lot for you as well, and they treat you like their own. It’s good, because it’s nice to get out your comfort zone.”
Diamond was a standout performer for Elliott Dickman’s under-23 side last season, and earned a first team call-up in the EFL Trophy before spending the latter months of the season with National League North side Spennymoor Town.
A loan move to the National League, therefore, seemed a logical step - but was it Diamond’s decision or the club’s?
“I think it was a bit of both,” he explained.
“I played under-23 football last season and a bit the season before, and I wanted to be in our first team.
“Obviously I always had the option of, if needs be, I can go out on loan to get first-team experience because I think that’s what’s going to help me the most.
“Kevin Ball is a big thing at Sunderland with helping people out on loan so I spoke to him a few times, and I think Harrogate came to watch one of my games and liked the look of me.
“They rang me up, told me what they were about, and I thought it was a good move for me.”
Indeed, the move has proved a good one so far. Diamond has benefitted from regular football and has caught the eye of manager Simon Weaver.
Off the field, too, the striker has quickly adapted to life in North Yorkshire.
“I settled in quite quick. Obviously, I car share with one of the lads so it was easy enough to get in with them.
“Then I just started playing my football, which is what I’m there for and what I enjoy, and it came easy. I played a few games and it’s just been building since.
“Everyone at the club is ambitious and that makes it easier, because I am too. They want to get me where I want to be, and it’s been good so far.
“I’ve just got to keep kicking on. Of course I want to score the goals and do everything, but I think that will come with confidence.
“I need to keep training well and practicing what I need to do. I need to demand more of myself all the time, which I do.”
There are some somewhat familiar faces around Diamond too, with ex-Sunderland striker Jon Stead a regular in the side, and former midfielder Paul Thirlwell assistant manager.
Both have been forthcoming with help for the youngster.
“I just want to soak everything in, and take all their advice,” added Diamond.
“They make little comments, give me little things and they’ve been there and done it. I just want to take it all in and I really respect them.”
Sunderland are never too far away either, with Kevin Ball in regular contact with the teenager.
Phil Parkinson - who himself lives in North Yorkshire - planned to watch Diamond take on Portsmouth in the FA Cup, only to see his plans scuppered by a power failure at the ground.
But knowing the first team manager is keeping a close eye on his progress is enough motivation for Diamond.
“It’s good that Phil Parkinson wanted to come and watch me, because ultimately that’s where I want to be - in our first-team. I’ll keep chipping away and hopefully I’ll get there.
“I spoke to the manager once, when I first met him at an under-23 game watching.
“I haven’t really seen him much because I haven’t been in the Academy as much as I used to be.”
The striker has a degree of security at the Academy of Light after penning a two-year contract last summer - but Diamond won’t be resting on his laurels in the coming months.
And firmly fixed in his mind is making a mark on Sunderland’s first-team - a prospect he feels is far from realistic.
“It was nice to get the new contract, but I don’t try and get comfortable and think I have a certain amount of time.
“I always want to try and get things and improve. It’s nice to have, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to fight for what I want.
“If I get say 30, 40 games under my belt in this league and do well then there’s no reason why I can’t get into the first team.
“I want to be in our first team, and I think there’s no reason why I can’t be.”