Lee Johnson reveals his thoughts on Oliver Younger, Josh Hawkes and Anthony Patterson's Sunderland first-team chances
Lee Johnson says that Oliver Younger is a consideration for Sunderland during their defensive injury crisis.
The former Burnley defender is one of a number of promising youngsters staking their claim for a place in Johnson’s side, and has been part of the travelling squad for the Black Cats’ last two outings.
And having made the bench at Hull City on Tuesday evening, the head coach insists that the youngster is a serious option for the Black Cats in the coming weeks – with Bailey Wright still the club’s only fit central defender.
"I think he’s always a consideration,” said Johnson.
"Oli, as a right of a three in a back five, is probably his most considered position at the moment. He’s got to make sure he builds up his experience levels – whether via us or more and more training and understanding.
"Obviously we’ve seen him at right-back and he did very well.
"He’s competent on the ball, he’s physically very, very strong and he’s just one of those players who gives 100 per cent whatever he’s doing.”
Also on the bench at the KCOM Stadium was Anthony Patterson, who deputised for the injured Remi Matthews.
Johnson has high hopes for the academy graduate, and is hopeful that he can gain further senior experience from a loan spell.
"It was an injury on the day, Remi had got a problem with his toe,” explained the Sunderland boss, when quizzed on Patterson’s inclusion.
“He shouldn’t be that long out – but in fairness, Patto has been absolutely outstanding.
"His training performances are very, very good, he’s very agile.
"I’d love for him to get that experience, probably with a loan, but at the same time I think his ceiling as a goalkeeper could be really high.
"He’s certainly one for the future for us.”
Another player pushing for first-team involvement is former Hartlepool United youngster Josh Hawkes.
The attacking midfielder has scored 11 times for the Black Cats in Premier League 2 this term, but Johnson believes further work over the summer may be required before he is ready for sustained involvement in the senior side.
And to that end, the Sunderland boss has already spoken with Hawkes about what is required moving forward.
"I think Josh has got some great qualities,” admitted Johnson.
"His end product is up there, if we’re doing a crossing and finishing session.
"I’ve had a great chat with him about ten days ago about his summer, because he hasn’t quite got that physical maturation yet at senior level to be able to from the start – I’m not saying he wouldn’t be able to from the bench – to go and dominate an opponent technically, which he can, tactically, which naturally he’s got a little bit to do, but physically I think is the key for him.
"If we can and he can fast-track that physical maturation by the right food, the right sports science programme and a summer – I think pre-season he comes in with a clean slate on everybody else knowing that he’s got that man’s frame now.
"I think that’s something that is quite exciting about somebody like Josh.
"We know he has got that ability to be able to turn a game on its head.”