'We are all delighted for him': Sunderland coach praises Dan Neil's progression and explains club's under-23s situation
Elliott Dickman says it’s fantastic to see members of Sunderland’s under-23 squad breaking into the first team – but admits the club must assess each player’s situation.
Academy graduates Dan Neil, 18, and Elliot Embleton, 22, have become regular starters for the senior side this season, while the likes of Jack Diamond, 21, and Josh Hawkes, 22, have also stepped up before leaving on loan.
Goalkeeper Anthony Patterson, 21, started Sunderland’s last match in goal and Dickman is pleased to see their careers progressing.
“It’s fantastic for these lads,” the under-23s boss told the Echo.
“Dan was in and around the first team at the start of last season and then wasn’t getting much game time so ended up playing quite a lot with us in the 23s.
“For me he had a really good back end of the season, and if he’s doing well within the first team we are all delighted for Dan.
“It’s the same with Embo and any others, Anthony Patterson, Jack Diamond, Josh Hawes have been in and around it.
“The manager will choose who he thinks is right and it has to be right for both the players and the team.”
After a challenging few seasons for the under-23 side, Sunderland almost won promotion from Premier League 2, Division 2, last term but were beaten by Crystal Palace in the play-off final.
Dickman insists the coaching team didn’t make significant changes to their set-up but believes the club’s recruitment helped results.
Last year, Mitchell Curry, who has since left to join American side Fort Lauderdale, and Stephen Wearne, 20, both arrived from Middlesbrough, while defender Oliver Younger, 21, moved to Wearside from Burnley.
Defensive midfielder Sam Wilding, 21, came in from West Brom and the emergence of 18-year-old Ellis Taylor, who has been training with the first team, also helped.
But while Dickman was encouraged by last season’s performances, he says Sunderland must also assess what is best for players’ long-term aspirations.
“We do the same sort of things, train the same, nothing has changed a great deal,” replied Dickman when asked what changed last season.
“It was more just a fact that we just had a change of personnel and that has helped us.
“I think last season we recruited well.
“There were a number of lads who came in at this level and did really well at this level.
“The emergence of Ellis Taylor was a big bonus for us I felt last season, he started with the 18s and moved up with us from sort of Christmas onwards.
“I think he sort of took off and had a really good season last season, both with the 18s and ourselves.
“We’ve had lads like Mitch Curray who has been and gone, he’s in America now doing well out there. Stephen Wearne has come in and helped with the 23s, Sam Wilding made a big difference and Ollie Younger made a difference.
“At the same time these lads are getting a little bit older and need to start thinking if they need to play 23s, go on loan or think about their careers a little bit.”