GUS POYET is looking for Sunderland’s young guns to challenge for first-team involvement this season.
The wait for new signings at the Stadium of Light during pre-season has offered opportunities for the club’s Under-21 squad to catch Poyet’s eye throughout the friendly programme.
Sunderland fielded an XI of academy products for the final 30 minutes against both Carlisle and Hartlepool, while Robbie Stockdale’s side were flown out to the Algarve for the Black Cats’ first friendly in Portugal.
Tom Robson, Liam Agnew and Duncan Watmore were then all introduced from the bench as Sunderland’s pre-season schedule came to a conclusion against Udinese last weekend.
But Poyet does not envisage the involvement of home-grown talent being a one-off; sparked by Sunderland being short on numbers.
The head coach is keen for the more promising members of the U21 squad to continue their push to make the grade at Sunderland and sees them playing a more prominent role in his long-term plans.
Poyet told the Echo: “It’s always the idea to show what they can do. Sometimes when the play altogether, they understand things better than if there’s only themselves who come and play with the first-team. But slowly, they know they are going to be part of things here.”
Robson, Agnew and Watmore are three of the more promising players coming through the club’s ranks.
Left-back Robson rejected interest from Fulham to sign a new deal at Sunderland towards the end of last season.
Midfielder Agnew was an unused substitute for three of Sunderland’s games at the end of last season and is unlikely to be allowed to return to Boston on loan, despite keen interest from the non-league outfit.
Neither will Watmore, who spent the second half of last season at relegated SPL outfit Hibernian, be allowed out on loan at the moment, despite a queue of suitors looking to sign the winger on a temporary basis.
Reflecting on their involvement against Udinese, Poyet added: “It was a great opportunity for Robbo to come on, show the qualities he’s got and see how difficult it is to play against a team who are used to playing in Europe.
“They (Udinese players) know how to deal with 50-50s and difficult situations, so it was a great experience for him, Duncan and Liam Agnew to come on and perform in the first team.
“Liam was with us already last year.
“My idea was to have him for the whole pre-season with me. But we couldn’t, because of the numbers.”