Head of coaching's reasons to be optimistic.
Sunderland’s Academy head of coaching, Elliott Dickman, believes there is reason to be optimistic about the progress being made at the Academy of Light.
Speaking to safc.com after Craig Liddle’s under-18s thumped Wolves 5-3 last weekend, Dickman said he is delighted with the progress made by the young Black Cats, some of whom have moved into Kevin Ball’s development squad.
He said: “It is a big step for the lads who move up to Kevin’s side. Mika [Mandron]’s been up there, Tom McNamee’s been up there, George Honeyman’s been up there, Ross Holland has been on the bench and Nathan Thomas has also been on the bench, so they’ve all played parts in games.
“Tom [McNamee] and Mika are the ones who’ve played most since Christmas, they’ve both done well up there from the games I have seen and the feedback we get from Kevin [Ball], Robbie [Stockdale] and Ged [McNamee] is generally positive.”
Both McNamee and Mandron have made an impact in Ball’s side and Dickman feels they are both benefiting from the experience.
“Mika’s quite a tall, gangly boy and he’s slowly turning into a young man, his body has started to come together and he’s physically changing – in the last 18 months he’s been with us he’s changed a lot.
“Tom’s physically good, he’s a good defender, that’s his game and that’s what he’s done very, very well.
“He was talking about playing up against Leon Best when he played up at Blackburn Rovers a couple of weeks ago, and he was really buzzing with that different challenge.
“To play against somebody who was a regular in a Barclays Premier League side, scored lots of goals in the Championship and scored goals in the top flight - it’s a good challenge for somebody like Tom to come up against somebody who’s an established player.”
As a spiral effect of the progress of the likes of Mandron and McNamee, opportunities have opened up for under-16s to gain experience at a higher level.
And, again Dickman believe these chances can only benefit the new intake of scholars in the long term – with multiple U16s featuring at the higher level in the defeat at Liverpool two weeks ago.
“It was a good test and challenge for the lads,” he explained.
“Obviously on the day we were a little bit disappointed with our performance but it’s good for the likes of Michael Ledger, who has played a lot since Christmas.
“Dylan McEvoy played, he’s just come back from an injury so he could only play half a game and young Daniel Wright, who’s only 15, made his debut and did very well.
“Jordan Blinco scored a good goal and he played well - so it gives them lads that opportunity and that experience to play against decent players as well.”