Academy head of coaching previews trip to Africa.
Sunderland’s academy head of coaching, Elliott Dickman, says the club’s young players are relishing the chance to take part in the prestigious Future Champions tournament.
The Black Cats’ U16 squad will fly out to Johannesburg on Sunday to take part in the competition, which kicks off on March 24.
Sunderland, who are enjoying an ever-growing profile on the continent as part of the SAFC in Africa initiative, are honoured to have been invited to take part in the tournament, which is in its sixth year.
There’ll be different types of players, different styles of coaching and styles of play, so it’s going to be a good challenge
- Elliott Dickman
They have been drawn in Group D alongside South African side Mamelodi Sundowns, US outfit USYSA Select and Royal Wahingdoh of India.
A total of sixteen teams spanning the globe are taking part, and Dickman sees the diverse nature of the opposition as a big positive.
“We’re all looking forward to the trip,” he told safc.com ahead of the tournament, which is taking place at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto.
“It’s a big part of the players’ development.
“We’re going with a quite a young squad and it’ll be a test for them against a good variety of teams.
“There’ll be different types of players, different styles of coaching and styles of play, so it’s going to be a good challenge.”
The young Black Cats kick off their challenge for silverware against Mamelodi Sundowns on Monday evening before taking on Royal Wahingdoh the next day, with the second game potentially televised in South Africa on SuperSport (to be confirmed).
Sunderland’s final group game – against USYA Select next Wednesday – is also set to be broadcast.
The play-off games and semi-finals will then take place on Friday 28th March, followed by the last round of play-off matches and the final itself the following day.
Several members of the travelling squad have already featured at U18 level this season, including the likes of Josh Robson, Dan Pybus, Andrew Nelson and Luke Molyneux.
Meanwhile, first-year scholar Ryan Ellison will also head to South Africa.
“We’ll go and give it our best shot,” Dickman added.
“We’ve done quite well in previous tournaments, but the main thing is to enjoy the experience of playing against different teams.
“If we’re lucky enough to win the trophy as well then that would be fantastic.
“We’ve got a good set of lads going out there who are very hard-working.
“We might have to adapt our style of play to the conditions slightly, but that’s something we’ll learn as coaches as well.”
GROUP D SCHEDULE
Monday 24th March (1930 local): Mamelodi Sundowns v Sunderland AFC
Tuesday 25th March (1500 local): Sunderland AFC v Royal Wahingdoh
Wednesday 26th March (1500 local): Sunderland AFC v USYSA Select