In a so far dismal 2015-16 campaign, aside from the bi-annual derby day win, Sunderland fans have been left with very little to shout about.
The Black Cats currently sit second bottom of the Premier League, three points adrift of safety, and have lost two successive games since the 3-0 home win over Newcastle.
Yet Sunderland’s Under-21 side have been making headlines for the right reasons, beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1 to make it through to the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup, while they also sit five points clear of Spurs at the top of the Barclay’s U21 Premier League table.
Under the guidance of now first-team coach Robbie Stockdale and new manager Andy Welsh, Sunderland’s youngsters have gone from strength-to-strength, losing only two games out of their last 25.
Under-21 skipper Liam Agnew spoke of how the Academy of Light sets up players for life and prepared players to lead from the front and it’s plain to see from players such as Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback, that Sunderland’s academy is capable of bringing through top players, who have the right attitude to succeed.
Duncan Watmore, who won the Under-21 Premier League Player of the Season award last year, has made the step up, while Lynden Gooch is also on the periphery of the first team squad.
Jordan Pickford, a regular for Sunderland’s second string, has cemented his place as England U21’s number one keeper, as well as equalling a club-record with a sixth successive clean sheet for loan club, Preston.
Although the step up is vast, winning breeds winning and with the first team struggling, you get the feeling some of the next generation could provide a solution, or certainly make an impact at first-team level.
* This fan blog was written by Sean McCormick for The Roar, which comes out every Wednesday in the Sunderland Echo.
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