Sunderland midfielder Martin Smith has completed a loan move to non-league neighbours Gateshead.
The National League Premier Division outfit have already taken one member of Sunderland’s Under-21 squad on loan this season after signing fit-again George Honeyman, whose spell at the International Stadium was extended to January earlier this week.
And Gateshead and ex-Sunderland boss Malcolm Crosby has now landed a second Sunderland player, with Smith joining on loan until January 2.
Smith – who penned a new contract with the Black Cats during the summer – has emerged as a regular for the 21s this season, with the 20-year-old starting nine games.
But he is yet to get a taste of competitive action, albeit he has been an unused substitute for the first-team.
Smith said: “I had a chat with George, and he’s loved it here. The experience is helping him a lot.
“It’s a great opportunity to play men’s football and for me to learn from the manager and coaching staff.
“It’s the next step up from U21 football. I look at it as the next stage of my development.
“There are a lot of games coming up over December, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Smith becomes the latest in a succession of Sunderland youngsters to leave the club over recent weeks. Honeyman, Dylan McEvoy (Boston) and Mikael Mandron (Hartlepool) have all been allowed to drop down the leagues, to allow them to play competitively.
That is a departure from Sunderland’s policy for much of last season, when it was felt youngsters were better served training at the Academy of Light and playing for the U21s.