Sunderland AFC round-up: Cats target Liverpool forward for youth set-up as ex-coach hails youngsters

Charlie Methven and Stewart Donald.
Charlie Methven and Stewart Donald.
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One of the key priorities for Sunderland's new owners was to ensure a greater focus on recruiting the best young talent for the club's academy.

Sunderland have been busy adding players to the youth set-up with ex-Liverpool midfielder Jordan Hunter and former Everton and Swansea City youth defender Jack Bainbridge arriving.

And the Black Cats are now on the verge of signing another Liverpool player, with forward Liam Millar tipped to be joining Elliott Dickman's U23 squad.

A Canada international striker, he won his first cap for the senior team in March 2018 against New Zealand.

Millar, who can play out wide or as a central attacker, finished 2017-18 as Liverpool academy's top scorer netting 19 goals for the U18 and U19 teams and Roker Report are reporting he is Sunderland-bound.

Earlier this summer, in an interview with Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme, executive director Charlie Methven said there was to be a greater focus on recruiting the best young talent for the club's category one academy.

Methven said: "When you’re a Category One academy, I’m afraid you have to be brutal. You have to use your Category One status to go to see young players who are going places and tell them that your future is going to be brighter with you.

"'This is the placed that turned out the England captain, England’s number one goalkeeper, that’s where you want to be right? You don’t to be at a Category Two or Three academy … you want to be at number one. You want to be the next England captain.’

"So, we’re going to be ferocious, brutal, and tough for Sunderland, because we believe that it’s worth fighting for."

Hunter, 18, arrived on a free transfer after leaving Liverpool while the Black Cats signed Bainbridge, 20, on Wednesday.

It comes as former academy coach Cliff Byrne has spoken of his pride at the number of academy graduates to break into the first team picture over the past two years.

The former under-23s coach left Wearside to become Doncaster Rovers’ assistant manager but he believes the future is bright for Sunderland's academy.

Byrne left after a successful three-year stint which saw him coach the U18s and development squad, helping the likes of Josh Maja, Joel Asoro, Bali Mumba and Denver Hume.

He told the club website: “The academy as a whole has been terrific to me and that’s only highlighted with the level of the players who are being produced.

"It has been a really big effort from everyone and it has been nice to see the players given the opportunity to advance into the first team.

“It will be even nicer to see some of them stake a claim to stay in the first team.

“There is a lot of potential and quality in the building but then the onus is on the players to take that opportunity when it comes that way.

“Over the last 24 months players have started to do that.

“Lynden Gooch was only just getting in there when I came in and then there is George Honeyman who has done tremendously.

“Hopefully that pathway will continue to be there, and many more players will follow on that route."