Elliott Dickman

Dickman optimistic on youth front

by Ashley Houghton

Head of coaching encouraged by youngsters' progress.

Sunderland Academy’s head of coaching, Elliott Dickman, says he is delighted with the progress being made by the young Black Cats at the Academy of Light.

In the past week, youth graduates Jordan Laider and Mikael Mandron have both been on the bench for the first-team whilst the under-18’s extended their lead at the top of the Barclays U18 Premier League to five points with a 2-0 win at West Ham United.

And Dickman says there is a real feel-good factor around the AoL after seeing two of the current crop mixing with the first-team squad.

“It was good to see; Mika [Mandron] is a lovely lad, he works hard at his game and I think there’s a lot more to come from him,” Dickman said.

“He’s still got a lot of improving to do but just the fact that he’s in and around the first team now gives everybody within the Academy a massive boost.

“Jordan Laidler has been in and around the first team in the last couple of games since the new manager came in, it’s another boost for him and everybody around the Academy.”

Dickman did, however, stress the importance of managing the likes of Mandron and Laidler in the correct manner as they flit between Kevin Ball’s development squad and the first-team.

Both players featured in Monday’s U21 defeat to Blackburn Rovers at Eppleton just 24 hours after the remarkable scenes at St James’ Park.

Referring to Mandron, who is still a scholar, Dickman said: “I think the excitement of Sunday and the call up and everything is great.

“He’s part of the squad and its fantastic seeing him celebrate with the rest of the staff and the team.

“Mika had a big smile on his face, as he always has, and maybe Monday was a bit of a come-down for him, emotionally and physically.

“Bally manages Mika very well and he’s not with the 18s now, just the 21’s and the first team so Kevin speaks regularly to the first-team staff.

“If you ask Mika he just wants to play, whether it’s being involved with the first-team or with the 21s.”

As a result of the older lads making progress, opportunities have arisen for multiple first-year scholars and under-16’s to make their mark in the under-18 side.

The young Black Cats are top of their league with two games remaining and Dickman told safc.com great credit has to go to the young lads who are making the step up in age group, pinpointing schoolboy Ethan Robson as the perfect example.

“Ethan’s had a good season, he’s still at school, but he’s virtually with us full-time, I think now it’s starting to get to him a little bit with fatigue and things like that.

“Ethan is just one that wants to play every week - a good prospect for the future.

“It’s fantastic for Ethan but also the lads who have come into the 18’s; Michael Ledger has played a lot for us since Christmas.

“Reece Greenwood, Jordan Blinco, Dylan McEvoy and Daniel Wright, who is just 15, have all been on the bench for the under-18’s.

“So for these young players its fantastic experience and the pleasing thing is that they haven’t been fazed by it; they’ve come in and done really well.”