Jack Ross says Jack Diamond's first team debut was 'fitting reward' for his work behind the scenes.
Diamond was a late substitute in Sunderland's 3-1 win over Carlisle United in the Checkatrade Trophy, just a day after he scored in an U23 Premier League Cup fixture.
The 18-year-old striker has caught the eye of Ross and his backroom staff, with the Black Cats boss offering him close advice on where to improve his game.
After taking that on board, Ross was thrilled to give him his chance on the Stadium of Light turf.
"Tonight the bench was all U23's, with the exception of Luke O'Nien who has been suffering from illness," Ross said.
"They all played last night so we had to wait and see how the game panned out.
"Jack Diamond is a good player, he showed that in his time on the pitch. He has a really good ability to take the ball on the half-turn and go forward, he drifts past people so easily.
"There's loads of things for him to improve on, we've actually been feeding information to him and in the recent U23's games he's taken that on board, which is really good.
"So that was fitting reward for him."
The win also saw Lee Connelly make his first team debut.
Connelly joined the Black Cats from Queen's Park in the summer of 2016 and his work-rate has impressed Ross.
He was full of praise for the pair, as well as Benji Kimpioka, who scored on his full debut.
Ross said it was testament to the work of the club's academy.
"Lee Connelly has an infectious way of playing," he said.
"The energy he has is great. He's still a very young man.
"For those three lads, Benji starting and the two who came on, you can never predict how their career is going to go.
"I would hope that for all three this is just the start.
"It could be the pinnacle, which I don't mean in a negative manner, you just don't know. So for all three, they'll look back on this with pride, to be part of the first team and contribute to a win.
"I'm delighted for them and it is reflective of the work that goes on in the academy.
"It's important to stress that you shouldn't be judged on U23 results, you should be judged on the number of players you produce for the first team.
"The academy has a good track record of doing that and it is continuing to do that.
"From what I've seen, it is going to keep doing that in the future as well."
Ross' guidance for Jack Diamond is by no means an exception, with U23 boss Elliott Dickman praising the first team staff for their work with the club's younger talent.
"The support that the first team staff have given this group of players is phenomenal and it’s quite unique," he said.
"I haven’t seen that for a while.
"There have been managers who have supported it, but now have first team staff in the dressing room after the game talking to the lads and that shows we’re all one and all want what’s best for the players - and that’s to play first team football."