What Became Of Sunderland's 2007-08 FA Youth Cup Heroes?

Jack Colback went on to represent England at youth level, but what became of his teammates from the Sunderland youth team of 2007-08?

Sunderland's youth team has been lauded of late, with promising youngsters such as Jack Colback and Jordan Henderson among others stepping out of the Academy Of Light to great acclaim.

Still though, not since 1968/69 season has an SAFC youth team lifted the highest honour in youth football, The FA Youth Cup, when a team containing the likes of Ritchie Pitt, Bobby Park and Mick McGiven beat West Bromwich Albion 6-3 on aggregate.

We've come close though once in the last decade. In 2007/08 season our team made it to the semi-finals where they met a Manchester City side boasting the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Vladimir Weiss and Dedryck Boyata. We lost 2-1 on aggregate, losing 2-0 at the Stadium Of Light, but winning 1-0 in Manchester.

Arguably this was the most promising youth team we had in quite a while, so what did the team ever make of themselves? Here, we look over the teams and see where they are now in their careers nearly 5 years on...

1. Dan Staples

Then a promising young goalkeeper, but since not being offered a professional contract by the club his career, and life, couldn't have taken more of a nosedive. Following release he signed for Wrexham, but after only a short time quit the club due to homesickness.

With out a club or career, his life went out of control racking up huge gambling debts. In January, he was sentenced to six years in jail for a bomb hoax where he demanded £10,000 from Coral bookmakers in Annfield Plain. The bomb didn't work, and would never have worked according to disposal experts. Not the wisest of moves while already on bail for punching a man in the face outside a local casino.

When his Uncle rung him to see if he had heard about the bomb-threat, he confessed all and the Uncle took him down to the local cop-shop. Still, the prison side should have a fairly decent 'keeper now.

2. Michael Kay

Kay joined the club aged seven, and regularly captained the youth and reserve sides, but only ever went on to make one appearance in the FA Cup, starting a fourth round replay against Blackburn Rovers before being replaced on 56 minutes by Phil Bardsley during Ricky Sbragia's reign as manager.

Since then Kay moved on loan to Gateshead and Tranmere Rovers, where he eventually moved permanently. Kay is one of only a few players still under contract for next season at the Wirral side.

3. Michael Liddle

Liddle was a regular at youth an reserve level, and during the odd defensive crisis here and there, several fans touted him as a potential starter in the first team, however he never went on to make a first team appearance for the club.

Now aged 22, he's still here apparently, having spent time on loan at Carlisle United, Leyton Orient, Gateshead and Accrington Stanley over the last four years, while during that time he also made five appearances for the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side. It's now extremely unlikely Liddle has any future at SAFC, but should pick up first team football further down the leagues.

4. Liam Noble

On the bench once under Roy Keane for an away day at Chelsea and never seen again. Kevin Ball seemed to be a fan of Noble though, and made him a regular starter before he went on loan to Carlisle for regular first team football.

Now however he's much more well known for his Twitter outburst against Sunderland, during which he derided the club who molded him and invested in him as a youth, and slagged off our fans. He was disciplined by the Cumbrian side, and seems a little more reserved now, perhaps knowing his place as a League One player.

5. Joe Cornforth

It's unknown if Joe is the son of former Sunderland player John Cornforth, but it would seem entirely possible given that Cornforth Senior was playing for us around the time of Joe's birth.

Joe was not offered a professional deal with the club, but did manage to pick up first team football in an unusual place... with Ajax. Nope, not the Dutch side, nor the South African counterparts Cape Town Ajax, but Maltese mid-table side Rabat Ajax, who have no connection to the Amsterdam giants.

In Malta, Joe's a regular starter for Rabat, and seems to be carving out a decent career in the sunnier climbs. Fair play to him.

6. Niall McArdle

Niall was released by Sunderland having never played in the first team, and rarely featuring for the reserve side.

Unlike other players who might try to latch on elsewhere lower down the leagues, Niall went to university, and quickly became captain of the Sunderland University side, and also represents the Uni in athletics, focusing on long distance running.

Niall will be due for graduation now, I think, given his age, after studying Sports Nutrition. Given his athletic prowess and desire to learn, he's sure to find a career in the world of sports.

UPDATE: We're reliably informed that McArdle has a job back in Ireland, and will graduate from Uni this summer.

7. Jordan Henderson

Well, we all know what happened to Jordan Henderson don't we? Rose through the ranks at Sunderland to become a first team regular with over 70 first team appearances before being moved to Liverpool for a handsome £16m.

Since then Henderson has unfairly been branded a flop in some quarters, but those with a keen eye for talent will have seen that he's still maturing. A wonderful endorsement for the Academy and the staff that Hendo is currently in Poland and Ukraine with the England squad.

8. Jack Colback

Following hot in the footsteps of Henderson, Colback has also become a regular at the club, and thankfully we haven't sold him, yet.

Colback spent extended spells on loan at Ipswich Town, where he was voted Player Of The Season by fans before returning to the Stadium of Light, and making his debut under Steve Bruce. A memorable debut away at Wolves where he picked up two yellow cards in quick succession and was sent off.

Colback is rapidly becoming a fans favourite and a favourite of Martin O'Neill with his versatility to play in central midfield and at left back with minimal fuss, and always to a very high standard. We'd all that international honours are on the horizon for the red-headed midfielder, and next year should see him become one of the first names on the teamsheet if his progress continues at the rate it's currently showing.

9. Connor Hourihane

Hourihane was a favourite of Roy Keane, who brought him to the club in 2007. Legend has it that Keane went personally to Hourihane's parents house in Cork to convince him that Sunderland was the right choice for his future development.

Hourihane was offered a deal when hit youth contract expired, but chose to follow his hero Keane to Ipswich Town in 2010, where he failed to make a significant impact on the side, and even less of a one once Keano was saked half way through the season.

Always considered a talent, Hourihane left Ipswich and went to Plymouth Argyle on a free transfer in 2011, where he scored two goals and went on to represent the Republic of Ireland Under-21's on seven occasions.

10. Martyn Waghorn

The South Shields born striker was hotly-tipped to make it as something special at the club, but was given the toughest of starts to his career by Roy Keane, who selected him as a lone striker against Manchester United, where he rarely got a kick despite his hard work.

All in all Waghorn made six appearances for the club, before being loaned to Charlton Athletic and later Leicester City in the Championship where he is currently still on the books as a fringe player.

Not quite what we had hoped for, but carving out a decent career for himself. He's expected to leave the Foxes this summer however, if indeed the club can find a suitable buyer.

11. Nathan Luscombe

The little left winger made an appearance for the club in the same game as Kay, the FA Cup replay with Blackburn Rovers. This proved to be his only first team action, however he did become a regular for the reserve side.

Released in 2011, he latched on with Hartlepool United following a failed trial with Hereford. Luscombe is perhaps most noted for his battles with weight, often ballooning up win weight, which has surely slowed him down, literally and figuratively, although he has vowed to keep it under control and carve out a good career with 'Pools. Good luck to the lad.

Subs

12. David Brown

A left back, David never made the grade at Sunderland. While at the club he represented England in a Victory Shield win over Scotland, but wasn't quite able to replicate that form for ourselves, rarely featuring in the reserve side upon progression from the youth set-up.

Brown wasn't offered a professional deal with the club. After that he was offered a trial by Crewe Alexandra, but turned it down instead preferring to stay local and sign for Gateshead. Games were been few and far between for The Heed, and according to reports, Brown now finds himself without a club and out of the game at any notable level.

13. Martin Hunter

Staples' understudy, Martin Hunter didn't see much action for Sunderland at youth or reserve level, but has since done well for himself comparatively speaking. Hunter turned out a few times in the non-league for West Allotment Celtic, before gaining a football scholarship in the USA at Memphis University, where he also studied Exercise and Sports Science.

Hunter is a regular for the university side, Memphis Tigers.

14. Jordan Cook

Cook was a promising player, and following a loan spell with Walsall came back to the club looking like he'd filled out a bit and could go on to make something of himself.

Cook made impressive cameo's against Manchester United and West Ham, but found himself back out on loan to Carlisle last season, where he impressed fans and staff alike. Now he's been released by Sunderland, it's likely he will latch on at Carlisle, although Hartlepool are also rumoured to be in for his signature.

15. Andrew Galer

Difficult to find any confirmed news of what Galer is up to now, but according to reports he was lined up for trials here, there and everywhere upon release by Sunderland which all fell through. The striker is now apparently playing for Plains Farm in the Sunderland Sunday League, and banging them in.

16. Gavin Scott

Scott was another who didn't cut the mustard at the club and was released. Not too much information about him flying around, but he does seem to be playing for non-league side Consett, alongside fellow former Sunderland youth, Jonjo Dickman.

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