Highly-rated Tom Beadling has had a taste of first team action with Sunderland this summer - and he is desperate for more.
The 19-year-old defender was one of three academy players selected to link-up with the first-team for the tour of America and Canada, with Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford also featuring.
And Beadling believes the experience will stand him in good stead ahead of the new campaign.
The challenge now facing the youngster - who signed an extended deal in October to keep him at the club until the summer of 2017 - is to remain part of head coach Dick Advocaat’s plans.
“I loved every minute of the experience,” said Beadling.
“It was different to what I’ve experienced before but I settled in well and enjoyed it, there is a lot of experience in the squad and I picked up new things every day on and off the pitch.
“Getting minutes under my belt was great because that is what pre-season is all about, but to get them in the first-team was even better and I felt I grew into the games.”
Beadling has been getting advice from experienced campaigners John O’Shea and Wes Brown, with Advocaat also adding Sebastian Coates and Younes Kaboul to his defensive options this summer.
He certainly has his work cut out to break into the first team and the defender knows a lot of hard graft lies ahead of him.
Beadling added: “The second-half against Toronto was probably my personal highlight of the tour.
“The city, the stadium and the training ground had a great atmosphere and there was a great vibe.
“The hard work starts now though because I want to stay in the mix and experience more, so I will keep working hard, keep my head down and see what happens.”