Craig Liddle

Young guns making progress

by Ashley Houghton

Liddle says chances available for budding stars.

Sunderland’s U18 coach Craig Liddle has praised his boys' response to the winter break after moving second in their Barclays U18 Premier League group.

Saturday’s 2-1 win over West Ham United was their second since the turn of the year, and with seven points from their opening four games in 2013, Liddle believes his players should be praised for their productivity.

“The lads have come back from the break quite refreshed and they’ve really tried to push themselves on for the second part of the season," he said.

“I’m delighted with the way things are going with them, they’re making steady progress – which is what we’ve hoped for.”

The under-18’s only defeat in 2013 was a fortnight back when they were defeated 5-1 at Tottenham Hotspur.

The team that day included a number of younger players due to the likes of Mikael Mandron, Tom McNamee and Nathan Thomas being promoted to Kevin Ball’s development squad.

And Liddle believes this progress is not only beneficial to the boys making the step up, but also a sign of how well the current crop is developing.

“There are lads who have moved up into the development squad with Kevin and they’ve handled it quite well," he explained.

“Again, they’re learning that side of the game and also, that the step up isn’t easy, but they are doing well and they’re progressing well.

“It does give the younger boys in the [under-18’s] squad an opportunity if they perform [to take the next step].

“That door is open for them, because if they produce the goods in the under-18s then they’ll move into Kevin’s side.”

As a spiral effect of multiple under-18’s making the step up, there is an opportunity available for next year’s intake to get a taste of under-18 football before they join full-time in the summer.

Liddle again feels this is an advantage for the new lads.

“Next year’s intake will be looking at the under-18’s now to try and get a few games under their belt, just to test the water.

“It’s good for them to see what it’s like before they come in full-time in the summer.

“I’m pretty certain over the next few weeks and months that the opportunities will be there for them to come and show what they can do ahead of next season.”