Saturday saw both the first team and the u23s draw their respective games. The first team put in an average performance to draw with Hull after the u23s had battled to a two all draw against a highly rated Manchester City side, - who boast the finest training facilities in the country.
Despite James Vaughan finally breaking his scoring duck, Saturday’s main talking point arguably came from the u23 side, with Duncan Watmore marking his eagerly anticipated return with a goal after almost a year out with injury. Watmore started the game very brightly, winning his side a penalty early on and getting City defender Oliver sent off in the process before dispatching the resulting penalty. Duncan continued to be a thorn in the side of the City defence in the first half before being substituted at half time. Sunderland were 2-1 up thanks to Ethan Robson drilling in an effort to restore Sunderland’s lead after they’d been pegged back earlier in the half.
In similar fashion to the first team, the u23s just couldn’t hold on to their lead, with Brahim Diaz levelling for city to make it 2-2, which is how it ended. Nevertheless this was a positive result for Elliott Dickman’s u23s, especially given that they were without some of the more experienced lads like Josh Maja, Joel Asoro and Rees Greenwood.
So this begs the question, why don’t we see more of these lads featuring in the first team?
I mean fair enough if the first team lads were playing well and winning games, but they’re not. We’ve seen Honeyman come in to the first team fold this season and put a decent shift in and when playing for the u23 side he wasn’t exactly a stand out performer. With that in mind I strongly believe that there are more hidden gems in the u23 squad, gems who if are to reach their potential must feature in the first team sooner rather than later.
Take Ethan Robson – he’s come in for a lot of praise recently playing a calm and confident passer of the ball and a real unit. At 20 years old surely his time is now – surely the desire and spirit he’d bring to the side would give more of a positive impact than the lethargic, arrogant attitude of Jack Rodwell.
We’ve got Elliot Embleton too, he’s scored on multiple occasions for England at both u18 and u19 level, yes he’s only 18 but so was Dele Alli when he lit up the football league. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough and I’d personally love to see Embleton get at least a chance in the first team – even if it is just in the Carabao Cup. It’d be great to see some more local lads on the pitch for the fans to get behind, much like they did with Pickford last season.
Two of the most exciting academy prospects the club currently have are Asoro and Maja. Asoro having attracted scouts from Inter Milan and Arsenal, whereas Maja has had his chance in the first team and impressed everyone with his neat play and tidy finishing. The two are both strikers, an area we’re very weak in at the moment – with James Vaughan the only fit out and out striker currently available, surely the duo have done enough to merit the opportunity to showcase their ability in the championship – particularly when the senior players are failing to deliver.
And finally there’s Lynden Gooch. He’s showed promise at times – whether it be for the u23s or the brief chances he’s been given in the first team, but the promise has never really amounted to anything, which when you look at the time he’s given on the pitch it’s hardly surprising. He’s a trier for sure but playing three minutes at the end of a match is never going to show a player’s true ability – he’s another one I strongly believe should be given his fair crack of the whip by Grayson.
The club aren’t performing how we’d like at the minute, that’s undeniable, not all of them at once but if just one or two of the players I’ve mentioned come good they could just provide the injection of youthful exuberance, desire and hunger required to shoot us up the league – whilst giving the fans something to really be proud of and get behind – young, homegrown talent.