Ged McNamee looks back on 2012-13.
Sunderland’s Academy manager, Ged McNamee, has been delighted with the progress made by the youth set-up during the 2012-13 campaign.
McNamee has overseen the rise of likes of Mikael Mandron, who made his first-team debut in April, whilst the club’s under-18 side made the semi-finals of the Barclays U18 Premier League.
The Academy of Light was also graded as a Category One Academy under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan.
And McNamee has been pleased on all fronts as the Cleadon-based training facility - now featuring an indoor training barn, opened late last year - moves forward.
“At the start of the season we looked at it and you’re always wondering how it’s going to pan out over the season,” McNamee explained.
“Obviously the under-18’s getting to the semi-finals was a bonus; it’s great for the lads.
“Moving on from there, the fact that some of the lads have made their debut in the first team and travelled with them since the new head coach has come in has been really good for the Academy.
“It was probably a bit out of necessity but at the same time it’s great experience for the boys to be around the manager, to be in the first team dressing room, to see what the demands and pressures are.
“All that experience can only be good for the boys that have been involved.”
McNamee, who has been Academy manager for nine years, has been delighted to see multiple youngsters progressing to the first-team squad.
Mandron, Billy Knott and Adam Mitchell all made their debuts whilst four other under-21’s were unused substitutes under new head coach Paolo Di Canio.
And McNamee has reserved special praise for the youngsters, in particularly Mandron and under-21s captain, Liam Marrs, who have both shown the attitude that he feels everyone at the Academy of Light should aspire to.
“It [Mandron’s first-team debut] has been a massive plus for me this season. Of course we like to get to semi-finals, we like to win leagues, but the main aim is to get these boys through to be around the first team,” he explained.
“Mikael came to the academy as an under-16 and he’s fitted in very quickly. Again he’s a very well-grounded lad, you always see him with a smile on his face, he’s very polite and he gives you the impression that he just loves to be in the Academy and play football.
“Liam Marrs is a fantastic role model. He’s been in the academy right the way through, he has a fantastic attitude, work’s hard, doesn’t miss a lot of training.
“You need those players in your set-up to use as examples.”
Meanwhile the U18 side used a number of schoolboy call-ups over the course of the second half of the season, with the new intake set to join the club on a full-time basis this summer.
The likes of Ethan Robson and Michael Ledger featured regularly throughout the second phase of the tournament and McNamee was delighted with the impact the two made.
“That’s part of the process, young players will be given an opportunity and my view is that we don’t put a massive amount down to age, we look at ability, mental strength, and if they’re capable of dealing with that pressure then we should give them the opportunity to play.
“Ethan would be the first to admit that towards the end of the season he’s been quite tired and fatigued because it’s been a long season for him.
“So it’s a case of doing but also a case of keeping an eye on things as well.
McNamee added: “A lot of the new intake will have the advantage of already coming in nearly full-time for a lot of training sessions, so the actual facility and they dynamics of the building, they know and understand that well.
“The emphasis never changes, it’s about development, moving the boys on at the right time and hopefully getting the players on the right track.”