Loan Reports: SAFC's Young Guns Reviewed & Rated

Billy Knott has been away on loan, and we've had him reviewed and rated, along with a few others.

Recently the likes of Louis Laing, Jordan Cook, Billy Knott and John Egan among others have spent time away from the club on loan spells. All of them with varying degrees of success too, some have come back from their spells, whilst others are continuing their football education in pastures now.

This highly rated crop are arguably one of the best to come through the Academy of Light in recent years, and it's exciting to see how they're getting on.

I certainly wondered anyway. As much as I'm a football fan, there's not enough hours in the day to see every single player in all the leagues, so we asked someone to do the work for us. We spoke to several blogs and writers who cover the teams where our lads have been on loan to ask how they got on.

Here's the results...

Ryan Noble - Derby County

Views provided by Stewart Smith of DCFC Blog, Ramspace.co.uk

When Ryan Noble joined the Rams for his second loan spell, Derby had several strikers injured. We had won five games on the bounce and we hoped the in-form Noble (judging by his record for your reserves) would help us keep the momentum.

Noble's first available game was Burnley away where he started on the bench but was introduced at half time after an early injury to Theo Robinson, as a like-for-like replacement.

The following Saturday, the Rams were playing Stoke at home in the FA Cup and Noble was guaranteed a start but Martin O'Neil decided he didn't want him Cup tied. An odd decision in my view as I wouldn't have thought Noble would be pivotal to Sunderland's FA Cup campaign, yet 90 minutes against Premier League opposition would have been great for his development. Surely the whole point of loaning him out?

Noble started Derby's next match - away to Barnsley - and was part of one of the worst 45 minutes I've ever witnessed as a Rams fan, with us 3-0 down after half an hour. Noble wasn't especially bad but didn't contribute a lot, playing firstly centre forward and then wide right. He was replaced after an hour by the returning Nathan Tyson, who looked lively as the Rams pulled two goals back.

Our next match was postponed and Tyson started the following Saturday with Noble on the bench. With Theo Robinson and Steve Davies now fit, our striker crisis is over and Noble's loan due to expire.

So once again, we've had Ryan Noble for a month but due to circumstances, not seen a lot of him. I'm sure it's been a disappointment for him as well. Maybe we'll try again next year. Third time lucky anyone?

John Egan - Crystal Palace

Views provided by Ed Malyon, football writer and Palace fan, who can be followed on Twitter @eaamalyon

Egan was brought in (among a string of other loanees) to lighten the load on the Crystal Palace first team ahead of the Carling Cup semi-final against Cardiff City. He started two games, and against Derby he impressed fans with his strong aerial performance and looked very comfortable on the ball. The general consensus was that he looks very promising and a player with a bit of class about him, although he did struggle against Blackpool. The main issue against the Tangerines was his positioning. This can, of course, be put down to inexperience, and an experienced forward like Gary Taylor-Fletcher knows how to take advantage of such flaws, but the deciding factor in his career will be whether this weakness is down to his young age, or an innate and permanent lack of defensive awareness.

Jordan Pickford - Darlington

Views provided by Scott Thornberry of Darlo Uncovered, which you can visit here: www.darlofc.co.uk

As you will no doubt know, Darlington Football Club is currently in a precarious state. With our first choice goalkeeper leaving the club due to not being paid we were in a sticky situation. With going into administration and not paying the players we were quite rightly put under a transfer embargo. But due to a goalkeeper being a specialist area then we were allowed to bring Jordan in and he has been great up to now for such a young player. Confident and has a footballing brain. He is certainly a one too watch. OK so he drops the odd cross but he is also playing in a very youthful Darlington side due to our current plight, so will not get as much protection as he would have hoped.

As a Darlo fan I would just like to thank Sunderland for allowing Jordan to join up with us and also to the Sunderland fans who have donated towards our efforts to save our little club. Shares available for you all to buy. 1 share for £100. Get in quick before they are all gone!

Louis Laing - Wycombe Wanderers

Views provided by Len from Vital Wycombe. Visit here: www.wycombe.vitalfootball.co.uk

Louis Laing has been a welcome addition to our squad, but to give you a bit of background... here at Wycombe Wanderers we boast the leakiest defence in the top four divisions of English football.

With 6 goals conceded in the last week alone, we've now leaked 61 in the league and 74 in all competitions, and with a third of the season to go, most fans are confident that Gary Waddock's boys can hit the magic 100. Impressive huh?

All season the supporters have been tearing their hair out, and it's against this backdrop that Waddock finally acted by borrowing a promising but untried 18 year-old from our old mate, Martin O'Neill.

Laing's debut was against our relegation rivals Rochdale. He played at centre-half and impressed everyone as we won 3-0. The nil bit came as a shock to the system I can tell you! It was only our second clean sheet of the season..

Louis looked classy. After a while he realised just how bad Rochdale were and began to carry the ball out of defence and set off on solo jaunts across the half way line. Now central defenders just don't do that at this level, they generally hoof it, and in our case, usually straight to an opponent.

So far so good then, but next up were Brentford who can actually play a bit, and Louis had a total nightmare. Playing at centre-half against a useful strike force, he looked out of his depth, continually lost his man and we were trounced 5-2.

For our next game against Tranmere, Louis was switched to our troublesome right-back spot and did a good job in a 2-1 win although his forays out of defence and dawdling on the ball were becoming a bit of a worry. The problem is, our movement off the ball is often non-existent. No one seems to want it, so when he looks around for an option, there isn't one and before you know it he's been dispossessed in a dangerous area. That's why lower league defenders usually hoof it.

His next game was a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United where he played well at centre-half in a back-five as we unsuccessfully tried to park the bus. Finally, he played at right-back again on Tuesday night as we threw away a half time lead to lose 3-2 at home to relegation rivals Yeovil. Again he showed flashes of class mixed with the naivety and inexperience of youth.

All in all, we're very glad to have him for the rest of the season. He's impressive for a lad of 18 and playing every week in the football league can only help his development. One thing's for sure, he'll certainly get plenty of experience in our defence.

Billy Knott - AFC Wimbledon

Views provided by Rob Cornell of Radio WDON (www.stadium.wimbledonstadium.com) and Nico Lloyd from Natter Football (www.natterfootball.co.uk)

Rob: Wimbledon manager, Terry Brown, ventured North on a scouting mission to take in Knott for himself along with then Bognor Regis striker Jason Prior - on trial at Newcastle. Wimbledon fans can only imagine now that Brown must have been rubbing his hands with glee when a deal for the England Under-20 international became possible from what was to follow.

Knott, along with West Ham loanee George Moncur, started to form an impressive midfield on debut - teamed with workmanlike "ratter" and key man Sammy Moore in a 2-1 victory at Port Vale. He was bullish as Wimbledon fought back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 at play-off contenders Gillingham and he capped off an immediate three game winning streak with a superb strike in front of the Tempest End in another 2-1 victory, this time over Macclesfield.

He has also fitted in quickly and built a good relationship with the Wimbledon fan base, now regularly singing his praises.

Nico: ‘The boy', as our manager Terry Brown likes to call him, has been a revelation. He's injected new energy into the side and has impressed the fans immensely. He went off injured in the defeat against Northampton on Tuesday and some of our supporters were cursing the fact ‘our best player' could be out for a while. Thankfully, it doesn't look serious.

Technically, Billy Knott is superb. Good on the ball, always looking to make things happen and he has a bullet left foot. His confidence on the ball seemed to lift the players around him and, as a result, the ‘zip' that has been missing from AFC Wimbledon's play in recent weeks seems to have resurfaced.

If I had to compare him to a well known, top level player it would be Barry Bannan of Aston Villa. Similar build and styles.

Can I see him in the Sunderland first team in two to three years? Yes! The only doubt I would have is whether he is physically big enough for Premier League football, but some could argue the league isn't what it was in that respect, so he could make the step up without much of a problem.

Jordan Cook - Carlisle United

Views provided by Mark Nicholson of Carlisle United site Bring Me The Head Of Keith Mincher. Visit: www.keithmincher.com

Being somewhat opinionated, certainly about matters Carlisle United related, when asked to share my views on a specific player a few hundred words usually don't have a problem spewing from my finger tips. Not this time.

After Rory Loy was on the end of a tough challenge from Preston full back David Gray which resulted in a broken leg on Boxing Day, Carlisle's already light front line was looking somewhat depleted. Loy, after a slow start to his career in Cumbria, had forged a fantastic relationship with fellow Scot's Lee Miller and John-Paul McGovern playing on the left had side of a front 3.

Cook's arrival then, was a priority on Greg Abbott's list. A tricky forward with pace, an eye for goal, the ability to play from a wide position and highly thought of further up the league ladder. Are you Rory Loy in disguise? All the noises coming out of both Brunton Park and the Stadium of Light were positive. A few Premier League bench roles certainly suggested that there is a player in there somewhere.

A twenty minute cameo against Walsall almost brought a winner and debut goal but for a decent save from visiting ‘keeper Jimmy Walker. A set-back for both Cook and United followed against Hartlepool with a dismissal and subsequent 3 game ban for line-leader Lee Miller, the (ever more) apparent lynch pin of everything good in Carlisle‘s strike force and forward link up play. 2 starts and 2 substitute appearances into Cook's loan spell, now extended a further month, my initial thoughts still ring true. There is a player in there, certainly. I have no doubt he would have flourished had the opportunity to play along side Miller not been taken away from him, rather than having to unexpectedly replace him in a system heavily geared towards the experienced Scotsman's attributes.

I've seen nowhere near enough of the young forward to pass judgement on whether he has a bright future in the game, but from what little I have seen Jordan Cook can certainly be a success at League 1 level. That said, at 21 and not far away from 22 he needs games. To be a future Sunderland or Premier League star I'd certainly be looking to see a bit more over the coming weeks.

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A good little roundup there from those who have experienced these lads for the first time, and overall I'd say it was all very encouraging stuff. The future is indeed, very bright for SAFC. Oh, and if you were wondering - couldn't find a Northampton fan at all to talk Blair Adams.

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