A host of Football League clubs are targeting Sunderland’s Under-21 stars.
But they will only be allowed to leave IF the move suits the player.
We are not blessed with massive numbers and we are working well as a unit, so it may be that we keep them around for now.Sunderland Under-21 boss Andy Welsh
Andy Welsh’s side lead the Barclays U21 Premier League by five points and have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup.
Their form is in stark contrast to the first team at the Stadium of Light, who are battling relegation from the top flight.
And Welsh – who took charge after Robbie Stockdale’s promotion to first-team coach – has revealed clubs are taking a keen interest in the young talent.
Mikael Mandron joined Hartlepool United on a two-month loan deal on Friday.
And more could follow him on temporary deals.
Lynden Gooch, Liam Agnew, Tommy Robson and Duncan Watmore – who recently made his full debut – have all courted interest.
“We have fielded a number of calls,” revealed Welsh.
“The Under-21s have had a fantastic run and we are top of the league by five points and are on a good run in the International Cup too.
“We are fielding calls all the time, but any loan would have to suit the individual player.
“Scouts are tracking them every week and getting more knowledge about our players.
“But any deals will only happen if we feel it benefits the player, not the club they are loaned to.
“We look at that on an individual basis all the time.
“But it wouldn’t surprise me if we look to further their experience in the Football League in January.
“Duncan, who is obviously with the first team now, has attracted a lot of attention, while Lynden Gooch has attracted attention too.
“Tommy Robson has had a little bit, Mika Mandron – a lot of them, to be honest.
“But we will only do it when we feel it is right.
“We are not blessed with massive numbers and we are working well as a unit, so it may be that we keep them around for now.”
England Under-21 star Watmore is the leading light, having made his full debut in the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Southampton nine days ago.
And Welsh says he is certainly a player the younger members of his squad can look up to.
“Duncan is someone the rest of the lads can aspire to,” Welsh told the Echo.
“They do look up to him, he has been consistently performing for the Under-21s and he has been a consistent performer in training too.
“He started his first game against Southampton and we hope he will continue to be involved.
“When you look at the talent in the club, the likes of Lynden and Liam Agnew, our captain, we are doing very well and the boys are producing some good performances, which lifts the club.
“Can they make the step up to first-team football?
“In my experience, it is very difficult but it is not a Sunderland problem, it is a national problem.
“It is the manager’s decision whether he feels anyone could step up into the first-team picture.
“The gap between first-team football is very big though and I have seen that first hand. They have to keep working hard and keep going and tying to impress.
“Duncan is making that transition now.
“And we hope some of those boys go on to play for Sunderland or in the Football League elsewhere.”