Kristjaan Speakman outlines plans to strengthen Sunderland's academy set up
Kristjaan Speakman says Sunderland are on the brink of making a number of new additions to their Academy structure.
The club's Sporting Director has also admitted that he expects the upper age groups to have a more challenging campaign this time around, as he brings down the average age of numerous groups.
Sunderland' s U23 group surged to the play-off final of their division last year, but the likes of Anthony Patterson and Dan Neil have graduated to the senior group, while Josh Hawkes has joined Tranmere Rovers on loan.
Elliott Dickman's side have taken four points from their first three league games.
A challenging transfer window was Speakman's primary focus over the summer period, in which the U23 group also saw significant turnover.
With the window now shut, Speakman said bolstering the operation below the senior team would be one area of focus.
Sunderland have streamlined their senior squad this summer and Speakman says one reason for that was to ensure there is the chance for U23 players to be exposed to the senior environment.
"We're still building out our staffing structure in those areas, and we're expecting some new arrivals in the next month," he told the #SAFCUnfiltered podcast.
"Those will be in some key positions, both in the coaching domain and in phyiscal development, which is really important for us.
"The groups did really well last year, we'll probably see them be a little bit younger again this year and that means the [games] programme will be tougher.
"But we've got several international selections from our U14s through to the U17s which we're really pleased about, and we've got to now show them the plan moving forward.
"Young Ellis Taylor is a good example of a youngster percolating into that senior group.
"One of the reasons we wanted to streamline the first-team squad was to give youngsters an opportunity to come in, rather than relying on a senior player who is maybe a bit less motivated, having been in and out the squad.
"Of course, you have to make sure those young players are therefore of a very high calibre.
"The way the games are, there's training going on all the time with individual group sessions etc, and there's opportunities for these young players to learn.
"You put you forwards together and all of a sudden, Will Harris can pick things up from Ross Stewart, for example."
Sunderland's new executive team, which includes Speakman, have also been working on a project to establish the club's broader culture.
That is a key focus for Speakman even as planning for the January window begins.
"We've got a huge piece of work about the culture of the football club, which is something that myself, Steve [Davison] and Kyril [Louis-Dreyfus] are really ambitious about.
"I think that will be a real game-changer for us in terms of the ripple effect affects the club moving forward and all the things we get involved in.
"Looking purely within the footballing department, trying to build out this fit-for-purpose structure which we're not quite there yet with."