Sunderland player compared to darts superstar Luke Littler with 'calm temperament' praised by insider

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Sunderland goalkeeper Matty Young has been making waves while out on loan - but just how good has he been for Darlington?

Sunderland goalkeeper Matty Young has been making waves whilst on loan at Darlington.

The 17-year-old shot-stopper joined the National League North side on loan earlier this season with The Quakers fighting relegation under the stewardship of former Newcastle United player Steve Watson.

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Since joining Darlington, the club have won 10 out of the 13 games Young has started in - and secured safety with a 3-1 at home against Farsley Celtic on Saturday afternoon. Young was presented with Darlo’s Young Player of the Season award following the clash and was praised by Sunderland’s interim head coach Mike Dodds this week.

Young is now drawing comparisons to England and Everton number one Jordan Pickford, who also rose through the ranks at the Academy of Light after a loan spell at Darlington back in 2012, where he made 17 appearances.

Here, we caught up with Darlington fan and insider Craig Stobbard, who also works as a journalist for the Northern Echo, to unearth just how good Young has been for Darlo - and how far he could go in the future.

What impact has Young had since coming to the club?

CS: Huge. Darlington have had a renaissance under Steve Watson, somehow avoiding relegation despite appearing to be doomed in February when they were nine points from safety, and Young has been a key player in the improved form. The team have won 10 of the 13 matches in which he’s played. He has been one of four astute signings – Scott Barrow, Cedric Main and Matty Cornish the others – without whom Quakers would have been relegated weeks ago.

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An injury to usual first-choice Tommy Taylor paved the way for Young’s loan. Though Tommy has been available again for weeks, I understand that he has been magnanimous about the situation and has no qualms about not getting back into the team as he can see how good Young is.

How has Young managed to adapt to the National League?

CS: If I’m honest, I had reservations when it was first announced Darlington had signed a 17-year-old goalkeeper. Surely he’d not be up to the rigours of non-league football? But Matty is 17 in the same way that Luke Littler is 17 – neither of them look or play like they are not yet old enough to vote. In fact, until I see his passport I won’t believe he’s only a teenager!

His first match was away to South Shields, nearly 3,000 in the ground, so a big test for a local lad largely used to artificial academy football, but he kept a clean sheet in a 4-0 win and did not look back. It’s the commanding of his penalty area and distribution that stands out. He catches crosses cleanly, never any danger there, and his kicking is accurate too.

Young has drawn comparisons to Jordan Pickford - how accurate are they?

CS: The comparisons are predictable and entirely accurate. It is understandable that observers have drawn parallels between Pickford and Young given both have been loaned from Sunderland when Darlington have been struggling at the bottom end of the table and both were 17 at the time. In the second game of Pickford’s loan in 2012, away to Hayes & Yeading (attendance 550!), he was at fault for the first two goals of the night – Quakers’ manager Craig Liddle asked me to go easy on him in the match report – but there have been no such issues with Young.

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In fact, he’s hardly put a foot wrong. If we’re going to nitpick, he got lucky in the dying seconds of Saturday’s crucial game with relegation rivals Farsley Celtic, He attempted to chest the ball down, but instead, the wind caught it and the ball flew over his head, narrowly missing the goal. But we can overlook that one, given how outstanding he has been.

Clearly, his intention had been to kill a bit of time, which has been a feature of Darlington’s wins recently, with Young showing the composure needed to delay picking the ball up in the final stages of matches. Though not a particularly skilful trait, it does say something about his temperament that he’s able to stay calm in the heat of the moment when points are so precious.

How far can Young go in the game based on this loan?

CS: I’m going to contradict myself here: I’m reluctant to make bold predictions as I wouldn’t fuel any wild expectations, but he has already played for England under-19s so it’s not a wild punt to say he could follow Pickford in playing for his country at senior level.

Obviously, Anthony Patterson is doing a good job between the sticks and isn’t going anywhere, so I doubt there’s any rush to put Young into competitive action, but maybe Sunderland fans will see more of him in pre-season friendlies.

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Whatever happens next, after Pickford and Patterson, Young looks like another one from the Mark Prudhoe production line. The coach has been a keen observer at each of Young’s games at Blackwell Meadows.

Could Darlington try for another loan next season?

CS: Young is clearly raw, so it’d be for the best for all concerned if he were to spend the next four or five years on loan at Darlington… Failing that, I’d be amazed if Sunderland don’t adopt the same strategy as they used with Pickford. A year after his loan to Darlington, Pickford went to Alfreton, and then went out to Burton and Carlisle, and others, gradually moving up the ranks to face stiffer challenges.

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