Elliott Dickman believes the experience of the Checkatrade Trophy has been “invaluable” for his young players.
The competition has been widely criticised after it was revamped with invited academy teams from the Premier League and Championship playing against League One and Two teams.
Just 248 fans watched Sunderland Under-21s draw 1-1 with Grimsby Town at Blundell Park, the final group game going straight to penalties for an extra point with Sunderland winning 7-6.
It wasn’t enough to prevent Sunderland from finishing bottom but Dickman believes it has been worthwhile. “Without a shadow of a doubt it has been worthwhile,” said Dickman.
“We have had young Adam Bale, Jake Hackett, Owen Gamble, Jack Diamond playing and Denver Hume has played in previous rounds.
“These lads have never experienced this before, to come up against more street wise players, for me it is invaluable for them lads.
“It is great for the lads to get some points on the board, at times our play was quite good.
“It is a good learning curve for the younger players, Jack Diamond is still only 17, Jake Hackett is 17 too.
“The fact they have had an opportunity to play in this competition is great for them.”
Joint Sunderland caretaker manager Robbie Stockdale was in the stands watching on, with Dickman leading the side.
Dickman added: “It was an opportunity for the players to deal with a different style, a team that play more direct and they made it difficult.
“The lads showed some character.”