But just how often has a Black Cats player – or Sunderland themselves - reaped the benefits of swapping reserve or junior team football on Wearside for a baptism in senior football elsewhere? Here are 11 Sunderland players for whom life after being borrowed was anything but blue. Scroll down click through the pages to find out who Ethan Robson can look to for some motivation:
1. Jordan Pickford
The shining example of how the loan system can benefit a young player, Sunderland academy graduate Pickford moved through several tiers of English football during temporary moves away between 2012 and 2014. Pickford went on to break through at the Stadium of Light as a regular under David Moyes and shone despite a torrid season that saw Sunderland’s 10-year stay in the Premier League come to an end.
Photo: Alex Livesey
2. Martyn Waghorn
Another academy graduate, Henderson made huge strides while on loan at Coventry City in 2009. After returning from an injury that cut that spell short, Henderson went on to more than just hold down a first-team place under Steve Bruce. Henderson was named Sunderland’s Young Player of the Season in 2011 before leaving for Liverpool in a near-£20m deal. Now captain after battling to establish himself at Anfield, Henderson has lifted the Champions League and won 53 England caps.
Photo: Chris Brunskill
3. Martyn Waghorn
At Sunderland’s academy from the age of eight, Waghorn made his first-team debut against Manchester United at 17, but was then loaned out to Charlton and – more successfully – Leicester. With his 12 goals in 2009-10 having helped Leicester into the Championship play-offs, Waghorn joined the Foxes permanently. And after a few lean years, Waghorn’s career was revived by a move to Rangers in 2015, where he scored 27 goals in 57 games, and successful spells at Ipswich and Derby have followed.
Photo: Bryn Lennon
4. Jack Colback
A player who divided opinions among Sunderland fans, Colback enjoyed a successful loan at Ipswich, where he was named Players’ Player of the Year in 2009-10. Having then broken in to the Sunderland first team, Colback proved a versatile performer, playing at Wembley under Gus Poyet and famously scoring against Newcastle at St James’s Park. But that made his next move – to Newcastle as a free agent, in 2013-14 – a huge surprise. To the delight of many Sunderland fans, Colback’s career – after a promising start – at St James’s Park has nosedived.
Photo: Matthew Lewis