Sunderland fans debate whether Black Cats should bring in experienced free agents or keep faith with youth

Josh Maja scored four times in pre-season
Josh Maja scored four times in pre-season
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Sunderland’s failure to land a striker on deadline day has sparked an intense debate over whether Simon Grayson should look to the free agent market or keep faith with youth.

Free agents in that position do little to spark enthusiasm and in terms of profile Grayson is after – experienced at Championship level – only ex-Southampton and Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert really fits the bill though at 35 his best years are behind him.

Rickie Lambert is a free agent

Rickie Lambert is a free agent

Should Grayson keep faith with the younger players then that will benefit teenagers Joel Asoro and Josh Maja and Duncan Watmore when he returns from a long-term knee injury after the international break.

The issue sparked a big debate on our SAFC Facebook page.

Fan Mark Hoe said: “Go get Ricky Lambert, and introduce the younger players later in the second half. They will learn from the older players, ie Lambert, Grabban, Vaughan. Vaughan will score and when he does he will be a regular scorer.”

Declan Welch disagreed, though, adding: “Well past it he [Lambert] is, the league will be too fast for him, lot of younguns loaned from Prem to Championship.”

Joel Asoro and Josh Maja

Joel Asoro and Josh Maja

Jean Bennett wants to see youth given a chance: “Lambert has fitness issues just like Victor Anichebe did (the reason he was available as an out of contract player) and we all know how that turned out - scored a few goals then spent more time out injured than actually playing. We don’t want to go down that route again. Give youth a chance.”

Phil Hargrave is keen to see the club’s Academy products given an opportunity, he said: “If we keep on signing has-beens we may as well shut the Academy down. Lets get the lads who we think can play in the first team. Trust in youth and rebuild the club. Keep on buying has-beens and we will just continue what we are doing now.”

John Houghton believes Lambert would do a job for the Black Cats in the short term and he also raised concerns over Watmore’s return being over-hyped.

John wrote: “Seems to be a lot of high expectation for Watmore, yes this is his level but he’s not an out and out striker.

“Bit more like a winger who runs up and down the flanks and doesn’t know when to cross the ball, I think we need to look at free agents and Lambert would fit the bill providing his demands aren’t excessive!”

Maja and Asoro did well in pre-season, with 18-year-old Maja catching the eye before he was struck down with a knee injury.

Black Cats fan Darren Ward said: “When Maja is fit give him a chance he looks like he will be a decent striker when he gets into the game big, strong, got skill and can finish.”

Marc Phuprate agreed that Sunderland should show faith in their youth but believes there is scope to do both, adding: “We have some good youth strikers but I think they should get one or two from the free market and also some of the youth and play one young and one older, then they can learn off each other.”

Zak Waters said: “Time for Maja, and Watmore to stand up and be counted,” while Daniel Jobling added: “Maja will step up if he’s given the chance.”

The summer transfer window may have just closed but it’s only four months until the January one swings open – and Paul Walker believes Sunderland should show faith in the younger players for now.

He said: “Think we need to trust in youth until January, at least.”

William Welton wrote: “Give the lads a chance they’ve got to learn sooner or later,” a point Barry Hansen agreed with: “Give the kids a go at least you know they are playing for the shirt!”

John Cassidy said: “Why not do both? Imagine how much Maja could learn from some of those available,” while Gray Tucker wrote: “Have faith and watch the youth come good.”

One thing’s for sure, with 41 more Championship games – plus cup competitions – to go, there will be plenty of opportunities for the next generation to make their mark.