Sunderland boss O’Neill to take care with rookies

James McClean
James McClean
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MARTIN O’Neill says he is all for giving youth a chance but he doesn’t want to ask too much too soon of the young talent at his disposal.

The new manager has successfully blooded young Irish winger James McClean since his arrival at the club earlier this month, has turned to teenager Connor Wickham and has kept Jack Colback as a mainstay of his squads.

In addition to that he’s also aware of the promise of several more players in his Reserve side as well as recognising that many of the first team squad he inherited – at one point last season Sunderland had the youngest squad in the Premier League – are still starting out on their careers.

And he told the Echo that while he has no problem turning to youth as he looks to spark continued improvements in Black Cats’ performances, he’s also conscious of not putting too much pressure on players still taking early steps in the game

He told the Echo: “I’m a big fan of the enthusiasm of young players and if you look at James McClean for example, he’s done great.

“He has that ‘no fear’ mentality that debutants have when they first come in which can just give you such a lift – you saw that in his very first game when he came on as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers, ran straight at them and helped change the game.

“It was great to see his efforts reignite the crowd at a moment where it was looking as though we were running out of ideas, or at least confidence of breaking them down and he just gave us that spark.

“But you look around the team and you wonder about putting three young players in the team at the same time.

“Is that fair on them? Would you not be asking too much of them in that situation? I have to consider these questions and the strength of the squad overall.

“So we have to be very careful with the squad in getting the balance right and I don’t want to get to the situation where we’re asking or expecting too much from young players.” Although O’Neill’s use of the youngsters might be limited in his early months in charge, he still sees a potentially big future for some of the emerging talents at the club.

“I’ve been watching them, I’ve been learning about them and it would be great if the young players here could come through and be Sunderland regulars in the future,” he admitted.

“Certainly it would be nice to think they would be playing for the club for years to come and if they do that then they’ll make an extra contribution, having come through the ranks.

“But at the moment, it’s a really testing time for us and we have to be careful how we progress.

“It’s a time when it’s important to remember that experience and composure are also vital.”