Sunderland boss Alex Neil welcomes his players back for pre-season on Wednesday

The Sunderland youngsters currently getting a major opportunity to impress Alex Neil

Sunderland’s pre-season campaign is stepping up after the Black Cats secured some key contract renewals and their first summer signing.

Alex Neil’s squad head out to Portugal on Wednesday for an intense training camp and two friendly fixtures.

Head coach Neil has had a relatively strong core of senior players to work with, but as it stands there are still some clear gaps.

First summer signing Daniel Ballard has joined the club’s international players in beginning their pre-season work over the last week, but clearly they have been slightly behind the senior players in situ from day one. That has left space in Neil’s group for a number of U18 and U23 players to try and catch the eye, and perhaps to book themselves a place in the squad for Portugal.

So who has been given the chance?

We run through some of those who have been in the mix at the Academy of Light over the last couple of weeks...

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