Sunderland’s Checkatrade Trophy win over Morecambe last week offered an exciting glimpse of the midfield talent in the academy ranks.
Bali Mumba would have started had he not been on international duty, but Jake Hackett took his opportunity with a composed performance that impressed all watching on.
In the previous Checkatrade game it had been Ethan Robson who stepped up, his progress since frustratingly curtailed by injury.
All three are rated highly by Jack Ross, and perhaps the progress of Robson and Mumba in particular helped make up his mind when it came to sending Elliot Embleton out on loan.
The Black Cats boss weighed up that decision carefully, encouraged by his improvements as pre-season developed but also conscious of the need to expose him to regular senior football.
A couple of months down the line, the progress is encouraging.
Grimsby Town have struggled in League Two but Embleton has forced his way into the team and his displays are earning rave reviews.
A man of the match display in the FA Cup first round last weekend was the highlight and for Ross, it was exactly what he was hoping to see from the 19-year-old.
“He’s got a belief in his own abilities, Elliot,” Ross said.
“If you speak to him, he’s got faith in what he’s got.
“When we had conversations with him about going out on loan, I believed he needed it for gametime and for the experience and he agreed.
“When I send a player out on loan, I would never, ever say to a manager that they must play.
“I’ve brought players in on loan before and you’re almost under a little bit of duress to play them and it’s nonsense.
“They should go there and be like every other player in the squad.
“Elliot has done that, because there was a couple of times where he found himself out of the squad, but he’s made himself one of their better players I believe.” Ross added.
“Every report I’ve had has been that he’s been very effective for them and that’s credit to him.
“In the grand scheme of his career, whether that be at Sunderland or elsewhere, whatever lies ahead for him, he’ll be much the better for this period. “
Embleton served futher notice of his promise on Monday night by starting in an England U20 side that secured an impressive 2-0 win over their German counterparts in Colchester.
Manchester City’s Lukas Nmecha and Arsenal’s Joe Willock got the goals.
His international career continues to go from strength to strength, making headlines earlier this year when he was nominated for UEFA goal of the year.
His current loan deal expires on January 6, and so the Black Cats will have a decision to make on how best to progress the talented midfielder.
No decision has yet been made but it seems likely that either an extension or another loan move would be the best option at this stage, particularly with Ross’s options in midfield so strong.
“I’ve had chats with him already, I speak to him to see how he’s getting on,” Ross said.
“Bally goes and sees him a lot.
“We’ll sit with him and agree what’s best.
“I wouldn’t bring him back if he’s not going to get gametime here, because that’s to the detriment of him in general.
“And also, selfishly for me, I want an Elliot Embleton in my squad who has maybe played 40 first team games, because then he’s better equipped to deal with it.
“We’ve not made a decision either way, if he did continue to play elsewhere for the rest of the season I don’t think it would be a bad thing.”