Should Sunderland be looking to send more of the club’s Under-23 players out on loan?

Michael Ledger in action for Hartlepool.
Michael Ledger in action for Hartlepool.
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Sunderland youngsters Michael Ledger and Max Stryjek had contrasting afternoons when they made their debuts for their new clubs.

Ledger has joined National League side Hartlepool United on loan for the rest of the season, the defender helping Pools secure a 3-1 win over Maidstone United.

For Under-23 teammate Stryjek, though, it was an afternoon he’ll remember but one he’ll want to quickly forget.

Making his debut for League Two Accrington Stanley, Stryjek was taken off after just nine minutes with a hamstring injury - the goalkeeper facing up to eight weeks out.

A huge blow for the 21-year-old but he is on loan for the season so has time to force his way back into the first team plans of John Coleman.

The good news for Sunderland is that both are out on loan playing - once Stryjek returns - competitive first team football at a good level.

That can only benefit the pair of them, with Ledger looking to build on his experiences of playing for Viking, in Norway, last season.

Ledger, 20, looked assured on his full debut, defended well, struck up a good partnership alongside Keith Watson and while a few of his clearances were rushed, overall it was a very encouraging display.

The question is should Sunderland be looking to send more of their Under-23 players out on loan?

With the transfer window closed until January, loan moves to Football League clubs are out of the question for now but loans to National League sides and teams abroad remain an option.

The problem with being a promising young player is that they need to be exposed to first team football if they are to fulfil that promise.

A loan move is an ideal solution.

There are a batch of Under-23 players that have recently been promoted into the first team set-up, relegation from the Premier League helping their cause for first team football at Sunderland.

George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch are now seen as members of the first team squad, with Josh Maja and Joel Asoro involved too since Simon Grayson took charge.

It is the next batch of players that could do with exposure to first team football away from Wearside; defender Thomas Beadling, left-back Tommy Robson, right-back Josh Robson, central midfielder Ethan Robson, winger Rees Greenwood and Elliot Embleton.

Ledger and Stryjek will learn far more playing every week for Hartlepool and Accrington than they would in Premier League 2, which can often lack the competitive edge of first team football.

For Sunderland, it is a balancing act.

Striking the right balance between on one hand having a strong Under-23 side that helps create a winning mentality throughout the club, drip-feeding players into the first team set-up, while on the other hand - deciding what’s best for the individual player’s development.

Sunderland have a track record of sending players out on loan; Jordan Pickford had played dozens of games in the Football League before heading back to Sunderland to become No.1 - and look at him now.

Clearly there has to be interest first but if clubs come calling for the younger pros and it suits player and Sunderland then more youngsters should be afforded loan spells away from the comfort of the Academy of Light - with the aim of benefiting both player and Sunderland in the long term.

Tommy Robson, just back from a hamstring injury, could benefit from a National League loan on the back of a successful spell at Limerick while the Echo understands there has also been interest in Andrew Nelson, who had a brief spell on loan at Hartlepool before injury struck.

Simon Grayson is keen for younger players to go out on loan, believing it is good for the player’s development but adding manager’s have to be wary of leaving their own squads short.

Striking that balance is the issue facing all clubs. The potential is evident in the Sunderland ranks, loan spells can help unlock it.