Elliott Dickman has praised the desire and work ethic of his Under-23 players as they look to catch the eye of new boss Simon Grayson.
Sunderland took the unusual step of sending the Under-23 squad to Austria with the first team for a week of pre-season training.
And Dickman says it is reaping rewards ahead of the new season.
“The players have had a tough few days with a lot of running, but the point of coming here is to get ready for what’s ahead and make sure we’re prepared for the season,” said Dickman.
“We’ve had several lads go and train with the first team which is great for them as it’s given them some exposure to the new manager and his staff.
“They’ve been pleased with the way our players have coped and they’re all very approachable, so that’s pleasing and our players have to make sure they keep doing the basics but keep doing them very well.
“Likewise, there’s some lads who have stepped up to our group from the Under-18s and speaking to the lads they’ve said this pre-season is tougher than last year which shows we’re pushing them.
“You would expect that progression in any young player’s career path but the biggest thing they’ve shown me in the last few days is a real desire and a good work ethic.”
Three of the Under-23 players have been away on international duty this summer but were due back at the Academy of Light on Wednesday; Sam Brotherton, Elliot Embleton and Joel Asoro.
Dickman added: “They’ve had a bit of a rest now because they’d had a busy summer, but they have all had three great – but very different – experiences.
“Elliot went away with England and played a lot of football while winning a tournament which is great for his development, and Joel has been away with Sweden Under-21s.
“Sam didn’t get any minutes at all but to be away with the New Zealand senior side for the Confederations Cup in Russia is unbelievable.”
They will undergo fitness tests at the Academy on Wednesday before starting their fitness programmes.