Sunderland’s young hopefuls are immediately sensing an opportunity under Sam Allardyce after the new Black Cats boss cast his eye over the club’s prospects.
Allardyce ended his opening day at the Sunderland helm by watching the Under-21s draw 1-1 with German side Borussia Monchengladbach in the Premier League International Cup last night.
If a new manager comes in, they want to show him what they can do.
The ex-West Ham manager - who will be unveiled to the media this afternoon - joined first-team coach Paul Bracewell and goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker in the stands at the Stadium of Light, while Lee Congerton was also present, despite the question marks over the director of football’s future.
Sunderland’s previous two bosses, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat, were wary of turning to youth to help the club’s fight against relegation, albeit the latter handed Duncan Watmore his Premier League bow earlier this season.
But with a new manager at the helm, U21 coach Robbie Stockdale admits those coming through the ranks are already looking to catch Allardyce’s eye.
“We made quite a big deal before the game of not trying to do things that aren’t natural to them,” said Stockdale, frustrated after Mikael Mandron missed a last-minute penalty to secure what would have been all three points.
“They almost tried a bit too hard at times.
“It’s understandable in a way, but we tried to tell them not to try to look good, but to be good.
“At times, I thought some of our players got sucked into that.
“But it’s understandable, if a new manager comes in, they want to show him what he can do.
“Once they get over that, they’ll play their football like I know they can.
“I hope he’ll be pleased with the attitude of some of the players as well as their play.
“I look forward to having a chat with him today to see what is what.”
Prior to Allardyce’s appointment last Friday, Stockdale was in caretaker charge of Sunderland for five days after Advocaat’s resignation.
But with 11 players away on international duty, the former Middlesbrough defender admits it was purely a case of keeping the remaining first-teamers ticking over until a new manager was appointed.
“I moved some of the 21s over and we trained like that for a couple of days,” he added.
“The 21s had a friendly down at Sheffield United, so I stayed with the main group.
“But it all worked quite well.”