Sunderland midfield pair training with Football League outfits

Liam Agnew
Liam Agnew
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Sunderland midfield pair Liam Agnew and Martin Smith are both attracting attention from Football League clubs.

Under-21s skipper Agnew spent last week training with League One Bradford City, with Bantams boss Phil Parkinson confirming his interest in signing the 21-year-old.

With his contract at the Stadium of Light expiring in the summer, Agnew is one of several players who could be released by the club.

It is understood that Sunderland’s backroom team were meeting this week to discuss the futures of several players in the U21 squad and Agnew was one whose future was on the agenda.

But Agnew is not alone in catching the eye of sides down the football pyramid, with Smith spending this week training at League Two Carlisle, with a view to a possible loan move.

Smith, 21, is under contract for another 16 months, and made one appearance during a loan spell with Conference outfit Gateshead earlier this season.

U21 coach Andy Welsh said: “Liam’s done well at Bradford. We give him this development experience to go and train with other teams.

“He can have a look at how it’s done elsewhere.

“Martin Smith didn’t play the other night (Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Leicester) because he’s been training with Carlisle this week.”

Several lower league scouts were in the stands against Leicester, yet in a low-quality game, Sunderland suffered a costly defeat in their bid to lift the U21 Premier League crown.

Sunderland are now two points behind table-toppers Manchester United, who also boast a game in hand - putting the pressure firmly on the Black Cats for Monday night’s Stadium of Light clash against Everton.

“Man United won the other night and they’re two points ahead, and they’ve got one game in hand,” added Welsh.

“But they’ve got to go to Chelsea twice, Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

“We’ve got to go to White Hart Lane ourselves, and play Middlesbrough.

“We’ve got to work towards Everton next week and take the points.

“There’s no way we’re out of it at all.”