If they are good enough they are old enough - three Sunderland players who ARE good enough


'If they are good enough they are old enough.' These are words that were once uttered by one of English football's most notorious and revered managers. 

Sir Matt Busby said this when asked to explain his philosophy of playing and developing youthful talent at Manchester United. A philosophy that went on to cement United's reputation as the 'entertainers'. Could Sunderland be heading down a similar road? Are those green shoots of talent that have been nurtured in the appropriately named Academy of Light about to ripen and bear fruit? We may soon find out.

Since Chris Coleman has arrived to take the managerial reigns at the club, supporters have been treated to a number of bright performances from the burgeoning numbers of youth players that he has chosen to train with the first team.


Fans will know all about Josh Maja's excellent pre season performances that would have had many calling for him to start a league game in red and white. Cruelly he was denied that opportunity when he was struck down by injury. But with Maja due to make a return and some of his fellow academy graduates being granted some precious first team minutes to showcase their obvious talents, should Coleman give the kids a shot?

There are many examples of young footballers having exceptional debuts and going on to enjoy stellar careers. We can look at examples from other teams but Sunderland haven't managed to consistently produce first team quality from their academy. 

Jordan's Henderson and Pickford are probably the last two that would be considered successful graduates and Pickford is still in the early days of his fledgling career. Henderson on the other hand has enjoyed success at Liverpool and for England. Neither are still playing for the Black Cats. Probably due to Sunderlands dire financial management over the last decade with both precocious talents moving on the bolster an ailing balance sheet. 

If we look at what Coleman has at his disposal currently, the younger lads are looking a lot more exciting than some of the tried, tested and quite frankly tired looking first team regulars the Black Cats faithful have gotten used to turning out on a Saturday. 

Exciting cameos from Joel Asoro and recently Elliot Embleton have gotten the press and the fans talking. 

Asoro, who was apparently courted by Arsenal in the summer, has already managed to register an assist to his name. And what a vital assist it was, putting some gloss on an average performance. Add this to the penalty that he earned when called upon against Reading and it certainly seems that Sunderland have a talent on their hands. This is all the more welcoming when it appeared that the young Swedes development had stagnated between earning his Premier League debut aged 17 for David Moyes last season and being overlooked during pre-season under Simon Grayson. 

Coleman and the fans will be hoping Asoro can continue to use his pace and trickery to influence games more and more, but many still see him as an impact sub. This is something that can only be changed with minutes and the chance to prove himself at first team level consistently. 

Last weekend we got the opportunity to watch another of Asoro's academy peers make their debut, young Elliot Embleton. 

I very much think this young man has a huge future ahead of him. A classy player in the middle of the park, he has an abundance of skill and tenacity at his disposal. Able to pick a pass and drop a shoulder to leave a defender in his wake, he also possesses a mature head on young shoulders. Skills that he briefly demonstrated to help the first team shut out a free scoring, top of the league Wolves side. It would appear that Embleton has all the tools necessary to make that ever precarious transition into a first team regular. 

He is already a consistent performer for the U23s and England at various age group levels, could Coleman help this young talent blossom?

Only time will tell, but if anyone can nurture and mould young, exciting and talented academy players into calm, collected and reliable first teamers it is him. During his time in charge of Wales he has given a number of young players their opportunity at international level. 

Sunderland are supposedly chasing one of them. 

Ben Woodburn was excellent for Wales during his international inauguration, even scoring against Austria. He then followed that up by smashing a screamer into the Sunderland goal during an U23 game. 

Could we see his arrival and further development on Wearside some time in the future? If so it would certainly seem that Coleman could have a class of prodigious footballing millennials on his hands.

If they are good enough, they are old enough. Sometimes the kids just need a chance to impress. 

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