The promising youngsters facing a defining summer in their push for Sunderland futures

Sunderland’s summer may still be dominated by takeover talk but Jack Ross is back on Wearside and preparing for the season ahead.

By Phil Smith
Monday, 24 June, 2019, 12:13
Denver Hume.

Key to his work will be planning both the size and structure of his squad for the promotion push.

One of the key questions will be whether a number of promising academy graduates will have a significant role…

ELLIOT EMBLETON

The 20-year-old is entering one of the biggest weeks of his footballing career so far.

There is a contract offer on the table from Sunderland but as of yet, no final decision has been made.

His current deal expires in just a week.

Ethan Robson.

Chairman Stewart Donald and manager Jack Ross have both said that they want Embleton to stay and that they do not believe he wants to move on.

Clearly, that would also be the ideal scenario for the academy product with strong ties to the club.

The surprise departure of Max Stryjek, however, underlines that it is not always so simple.

Embleton’s stock is high. He has been a regular in the England youth set-up but showed his real quality by performing week in, week out in senior football last season, at Grimsby Town.

At Sunderland, he will look at the squad and see a number of central midfielders making his path to regular football difficult.

He’s a player any ambitious Football League side would be keen on. Two-footed, creative and consistent.

He suffered a serious hamstring injury that curtailed his Grimsby loan, though Ross hoped he would be fit in time for the return of his squad next week.

Sunderland will be due compensation if he does leave but after the departure of Josh Maja, this would be another blow for the Black Cats.

It’s a big decision for the midfielder.

ETHAN ROBSON

After some promising cameos in Sunderland’s dreadful Championship campaign, it looked like last year would be the breakthrough for Ethan Robson.

His luck was rotten.

A chance to start the season was ruined by injury and his return, which saw a superb long-range goal against Carlisle United in the Checkatrade Trophy, was ended just minutes later by an ankle problem.

In talks with Ross, the Black Cats boss told him how much he rated him as a player and that he felt a chance would come. With Grant Leadbitter arriving, however, he could not guarantee it.

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So Robson went on loan to Dundee, who had a difficult campaign and were eventually relegated from the top tier.

Robson, though, held his own and the regular minutes will have done him much good.

Like Embleton, the issue he faces is a fiercely competitive fight for places at the heart of midfield.

At least one departure would surely be necessary for Robson to have a realistic chance to get the minutes he needs.

He could without doubt be a very good option for Ross. He is naturally left-footed, something not common in Sunderland’s midfielders, and also has a significant advantage when it comes to both height and athleticism.

It would be a major shame if the Black Cats are unable to find a way to utilise that.

BALI MUMBA

Still only 17, time is very much on Mumba’s side. Unlike Embleton and Robson, he will not feel the need for regular first-team football.

Last season was a remarkable one for him, even if first-team opportunities dwindled.

Fast-tracked due to Ross’ options initially being limited, he was given the priceless opportunity to spend time around the senior environment right throughout the campaign.

The decision for Sunderland now is whether to continue down that route, with Mumba playing with the U23s and spending time with the senior squad, perhaps featuring in the EFL Trophy.

Or whether to push Mumba outside his comfort zone and look for a first loan.

It is perhaps still a little early for that, but the Black Cats will be desperate to keep challenging one of their brightest talents.

DENVER HUME

Doncaster Rovers’ surprise swoop for Reece James could prove to be a major moment for Denver Hume.

His talent and potential is absolutely not in question.

He has a superb left foot, capable of delivering dangerous crosses. He has more than enough pace to deal with opposition wingers and plenty of defensive tenacity.

With James moving on, everything points to a clear run at a starting berth.

Bryan Oviedo looks set to leave.

Jack Ross is a big fan of Hume, and always said that last season was a big one for the youngster, for despite injuries, the impact he made in training and around the Academy was transformative in terms of how he was viewed as a player.

Ross was clear: this was a young player now considered a senior competitor. If Hume can stay fit, he has a chance to go to the next level.