New coach enjoying new surroundings.
Former Middlesbrough man Robbie Stockdale is settling into life on Wearside after joining the club’s backroom staff recently.
Stockdale, who already has a wealth of coaching experience at the age of just 32, made the switch from Grimsby, where he spent three years as head of youth.
He has taken up a role as professional development coach at the Academy of Light, helping the club’s young players transition between the under-18 and under-21 sides.
Redcar-born Stockdale began his career with Boro and went on to notch more than 250 senior appearances for eight clubs, as well as winning five caps at full international level for Scotland.
He moved into coaching with Grimsby having initially joined as a player, heading up the club’s youth system as well as spending a short time in caretaker charge of the first team.
Stockdale admits he has fond memories of Blundell Park but says he couldn’t pass up the chance to join the Black Cats.
“[Grimsby] was a fantastic club to work at, we had little or no money, fund-raised the system ourselves and I worked with some really good people there,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the club.
“It’s a huge contrast to what we’ve got here at Sunderland; I don’t think I could have gone from one extreme to the other so quickly. It’s taken me a little bit of time to adapt to that, and to understand that there are different people in different roles as opposed to me doing a lot of the work at Grimsby.
“That’s taken a little bit of adjusting to but the facilities here give the kids every possible chance to succeed.”
He added: “I’ve been to other academies where the first team don’t train at the same place as the younger squads and there’s a distance between them. That’s not the case here.
“I think it’s right that the kids play and train in the same environment that the first team use and they can see that progression all the way through the club.”
Stockdale has quickly slotted in, working primarily alongside former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball and under-18 coach Craig Liddle, who joined from Darlington.
And he hopes he can make a big contribution to a team which recently helped secure Category One status – the gold standard for youth development – under the new EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) rules.
“I’m fairly young as a coach and I’ve played at every level from international to Conference, so I’d like to think I’ve got a grasp on what it takes to play at certain levels,” Stockdale added.
“It’s not been long since I finished playing so I like to think I can relate to the emotions that players feel as well - that’s a big part of it.”