Sunderland’s young guns are expected to be given their opportunity in this weekend’s final game of the season, with Premier League survival now assured.
Dick Advocaat has been wary of involving the members of Sunderland’s Under-21 squad during the fight for survival, with the head coach adamant that the pressure of the relegation battle was no place for inexperienced heads.
However, with Sunderland now mathematically safe after Wednesday night’s draw at Arsenal, the likes of Duncan Watmore, Tommy Robson and Liam Agnew could all be handed their Premier League debuts in Sunday’s curtain raiser at champions Chelsea.
It is understood that Advocaat instructed several players in the U21s last week to be on stand-by to feature in case Sunderland were able to secure their survival before the end of the season.
They included Watmore, who has been pushing hard for first-team involvement after six goals in his last six games for the U21s.
Advocaat may not start any of the youngsters, but they will be involved on the bench, particularly as the ex-Holland manager’s options are thin on the ground.
Jordi Gomez, Wes Brown and Liam Bridcutt are all on the treatment table, while Seb Larsson is expected to miss Sunday’s game after struggling with a knee injury during the closing stages at the Emirates.
Advocaat may also opt against involving Lee Cattermole, with the midfielder on a disciplinary tightrope of 14 yellow cards.
If Cattermole receives another booking at Chelsea, he will incur a three-game ban which will be triggered at the start of next season.