Jack Ross was impressed with Sunderland’s Checkatrade Trophy youngsters and says they will get plenty of opportunities to shine.
A demanding schedule saw Ross draft in a number of the club’s Under-23 players to face Morecambe, eventually recording a 1-0 win and taking the club’s winning streak to eight games.
It was all the more impressive given that most of the club’s strongest young players were unavailable either due to international or loan commitments.
Those who got the chance were able to take it and Ross says they must keep showing their abilities when joining the first team at the Academy of Light.
“The younger ones are interesting because our older U23s are out on loan,” Ross said.
“Then you had Bali (Mumba) and Benjamin (Kimpioka) who were unavailable.
“The younger ones who got the opportunity might not have done [in different circumstances] so it was a big opportunity.
“I thought each and every one of them, I couldn’t have asked any more of them.
“I’ve mentioned it before about the contact time with the younger players, purely because of the vastness of this place [Academy of Light].
“So one of things we’ve done, nine times out of 10 on a Thursday they’ll come over and help us.
“With me it’s the attacking patterns and with John and James some of the defensive stuff. I’m not technically looking at them but they’re with us.
“This Thursday, Jack Bainbridge, Jack Diamond and Jake Hackett all did the full session with me because of where we were numbers wise and what we needed. But that’s happened regularly.
“I take Bali aside because I see him as a first team squad player really but it’s happened with Benji and the others. It sounds very simplistic but when they’re over, if they make a good impression on you then you’ll take the first opportunity to get them back over.
“Jack [Bainbridge] has been doing really well with the U23s recently. Playing with a back three the other night, it was all about accomodating the younger players.
“For a young man making his first senior start, having Bryan Oviedo and Glenn Loovens either side of you, that’s not bad.”
At 20, Bainbridge is at an age where he will looking to push for first team honours.
Signed after his release from Swansea City in the summer, he showed his promise in the win over Morecambe.
He still has plenty of time to break through but behind the scenes Sunderland’s youth policy is shifting.
Ross has spoken on numerous occasions about the need for youngsters to get senior minutes, finding short-term deals for a number of the more promising U23 players this summer.
That is set to continue in the coming windows.
“I’m generally not a massive fan of the U23 set up, I think it’s a really big age to set that to,” Ross said.
“I’d guess it’s designed for clubs at Premier League level who have bigger squads. We’ve got a lot who, guys like Denver, who when I took the job was classified as an U23 player. Really you have to start looking at them and say, well are you first team players and if you’re not, we need to look at where you’re going future wise.
“The other night was probably a case in point, Josh has always just been a first team player but he’s only 19.
“So a perception of a player can be skewed because they’re in an U23 squad, you think they’re are kid when really they’re not.
“How we can model ourselves as a club going forward might help with that.
“I think Paul Reid spoke about that, you’re 18, 19, if you’re not playing with me then you need to go out on loan and make an assessment from there.”