Focus on young Academy full-back.
Representing Sunderland’s Academy is something of a family affair for young defender Reece Noble.
The second-year scholar is following in the footsteps of brother Liam, who is now with Carlisle United.
Noble senior graduated from Sunderland’s Academy and is now closing in on 100 appearances for the Cumbrians, who he has also represented at Wembley.
The younger Noble joined Sunderland in summer 2011 having impressed since arriving at the Academy of Light at the under-nine level.
The defender started out with Cramlington Juniors at under-6 level and was also with the [SAFC] Foundation until he was scouted to join the full Academy set-up.
He has been a fixture ever since and graduated to full-time status after a nerve-wracking wait.
“We came in to find out who was being offered deals – I was with my parents and we sat outside the office,” he recalled.
“Being with them made it a bit easier and it was hard seeing people coming out before I had my turn.
“You’d be thinking to yourself, ‘he plays in my position, I wonder if he’s been offered [a deal]’.
“I was delighted when I found out I was one of the lucky ones.”
Noble is an attack-minded full back who primarily plays on the right but can also operate on the opposite side of defence.
And his first season was a big success as he made 24 appearances for the under-18s despite stiff competition for places.
The jump to full-time football was a big step for the youngster but he has enjoyed life under first Kevin Ball and now Craig Liddle.
“Liam helped me with the first pre-season but it was still harder than I thought, going from training two days a week to full time,” he said.
“But I think last season went well. I played more than I thought, because we had a lot of full-backs.
“Young players will always get a chance here. Plenty of under-16s have played as well and we’ve seen schoolboys playing this year, too.
“Obviously we have changed coach this year but Kevin and Craig have very similar personalities.
“They both tell you what’s happening, they give it to you straight and don’t stand any messing around.”