Elliott Dickman

Dickman on youngsters' play-off wait

by Ashley Houghton

Academy head of coaching praises togetherness.

Sunderland’s Academy head of coaching Elliott Dickman has praised the togetherness and work ethic of the young Black Cats as they prepare for the play-off stage of the Barclays U18 Premier League on Saturday.

Dickman watched on as Liddle’s side confirmed their place in the next round with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool last weekend.

And Dickman says the way in which the group has gelled over the previous few weeks has contributed to an improvement in both performances and results.

“They work very, very hard for each other and they’ve got a very strong togetherness which is good,” Dickman said.

“I would say they’ve probably gelled a little bit more so in the last few weeks and, for whatever reason, that’s come together nicely in the last few games.

“It helps when you’ve got people like Tom McNamee, Liam Agnew and George Honeyman in and around the group - some of the older players.

“Andrew Cartwright came back on Saturday and he’s a good influence for the team, it was very much a team performance on Saturday gone – very honest and very hard-working.”

Honeyman and James Stinson grabbed the goals for the young Black Cats in Saturday’s win with the latter notching his sixth strike in 11 games.

And Dickman was full of praise for Stinson, a player he feels epitomises the work ethic of the team.

“It was always going to be difficult for James to come in and play ahead of Mikael Mandron this season,” Dickman added.

“Mika has been given an opportunity in the under-21’s and around the first team, which is fantastic, but James has always been a very honest, very hard-working lad and he’s always scored goals.

“I think he’s improved that side of his game and, though, he needs to work at it and improve it, I think for James it’s good that he is scoring goals.

“He has a role to play defensively as well and he definitely contributes to the team performance.”

Last Saturday’s win has set up a play-off match against any one of four teams from Group Two to decide who will progress to the semi-final stage.

Sunderland will find out who their opponents will be on Thursday with Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Norwich City all potential visitors to the Academy of Light.

And, though Dickman admits that not knowing who their opponents will be does hamper preparations, he told safc.com that the young Black Cats will be full of confidence after last weekend’s win.

“It’s up in the air and there are certain circumstances in which we find out probably Thursday who we’re going to play,” Dickman explained.

“It isn’t ideal but for the lads but my outlook is that it’s another experience, another game, and the lads will be full of confidence after the weekend.

“Hopefully whoever we play against we can take that solid team ethic into that game.”