Sunderland’s young prospects are emerging through the Academy and will continue to come off the conveyor belt.
That was the message of the club’s Under 23 coach Andy Welsh who has seen two of their leading ‘graduates’, Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore, hold down Premier League places this season.
Since the manager has come in, he’s been brilliant with the young players.
Welsh, whose side returns to action tomorrow night, when they host Blackburn Rovers at Eppleton CW in their second fixture in the Premier League Cup, sees the duo, and Lynden Gooch, as clear evidence of the progression made at the Academy of Light.
“I think Under 23 football, not just at this club, but at the other clubs in the Premier League, you want to try to move players to the first team,” he said.
“That’s what we’re trying to do here. Jordan has come through this Academy and is playing for the first team and has been away in the England squad - that’s massively positive for us.
“It’s the same with Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch who has recently become a full international with the USA.
“The academy is working well and you have some top players.”
Welsh says boss David Moyes is a major advocate and supporter of the academy system, the Scot having brought young players into the Everton side during his time at Goodison Park.
Teenage Swede Joel Asoro has featured in the EFL Cup and the Premier League squad this season, while George Honeyman has also been in the matchday 18.
“This is the next stage to the first team.
“Since the manager has come in, he’s been brilliant with the young players,” he said.
“They’ve been training regularly and he’s obviously put some in the [first] team week-in, week-out. It’s moving very well.
“But it’s a massive step from Premier League 2 to the Premier League. We are just trying to close that gap as much as possible.
“He’s fully behind everything we are trying to achieve. He’s given a lot of young players opportunities in the past.”
Welsh’s players will get a night in the spotlight on Tuesday when Sunderland host Notts County in the final group match of the Checkatrade Trophy.
A positive result at the Stadium of Light will take the Black Cats U23 side through to the last 32 and a step closer to Wembley.
While all the roads could be leading to a certain stadium in North London, the Premier League 2 programme has been more challenging.
Sunderland have not won in the division or league cup since a 1-0 victory at Everton in mid-September, though there have been three draws to add to the three defeats.
But Welsh says the standard of the football is proving a major benefit to the improvement of the players.
“It’s a very positive league this year and it’s a step forward this season and that’s what the Premier League are trying to achieve, he said.
“This league has become a better competition this season.
“It obviously isn’t anywhere near the Premier League.
“But it’s getting closer to where the Premier League want to get with Premier League 2, so that’s a positive.
“It’s harder than last year, we had a fantastic season but we’ve got to keep going and compete like we did last year and stay in the league.
“I’m confident we can do that over the course of the season.”
Kick-off at Eppleton CW tomorrow night is 7pm with the Sunderland v Notts County tie in the Checkatrade Trophy at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday being a 7.30pm start.
Fit-again Seb Larsson is likely to feature as a permitted over-age player in each or both of the fixtures as he returns from injury.