In-Focus: Sunderland U23s

Monday 15 April 2019 09:36

Fulham Under-23s make their final away trip of the PL2 season to face Sunderland on Monday night.

The Black Cats sit bottom of the table in a game that lacks relevance to the promotion race in Division 2.

Sunderland come into the game in better form than their visitors with a win and two draws from their last five games. Mark Pembridge’s side have picked up the solitary point against West Brom over the same number of fixtures.

Last Time Out:

Two early quick-fire goals from Jayden Harris and Moritz Jenz made for a comfortable night at Motspur Park for the Young Whites as they ran out convincing 2-0 winners in November. 

View From The Press:

James Hunter, Sunderland’s writer for the Chronicle, caught up with us to shed some light on The Black Cats’ season.

Things haven’t got too much better for the lads in terms of league positioning, but results have picked up slightly?

When you are bottom of the league with only two wins, you can't sugar-coat things - it's been a terrible season as far as the PL2 campaign is concerned! But it depends if you measure the success of an academy side by the PL2 table, or by the progression of youngsters towards the first team.

Sunderland's best U23 players have spent most of their time with the first team squad, or out on loan, which has meant U18 players have been playing against older players in PL2, which is why they have struggled.

With the first team pushing for Championship status, how have the younger lads fared in terms of look-ins at that squad?

Jack Ross has promoted a number of homegrown players this season, with the likes of Denver Hume, Josh Maja (before he was sold in January), Benji Kimpioka, and Bali Mumba, all figuring in League One, and plenty of others have been involved in the early rounds of the club's Checkatrade Trophy run. 

Has Jack Ross been eyeing any youngsters in particular?

Aside from the ones mentioned above, there are some talented youngsters playing at U23 level and Jack Ross regularly attends games at Eppleton to keep an eye on their progress.

Of those still in the U23 squad, midfielders Jack Diamond and Dan Neill are very highly-rated, and centre-back Jack Bainbridge is one to watch.

Who has been the standout performer this season?

Diamond has been excellent, and Kimpioka has also impressed when he has been with the U23s, although he has been involved in the first-team in recent weeks.

What is the aim for next season?

It will be to bring more players through to the first team, but to try to balance that with an improvement in results at U23 level. Developing players will continue to be the priority, though.

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