Whenever someone sternly claims 'if they're good enough, they're old enough', often their opinion is met with wry smiles and raised eyebrows. For every Jordan Henderson there is a Michael Reddy; for every Julio Arca there's a Nicolas Medina. In reality, whether a young player is 'ready' or not comes down to whether they're in the right place at the right time.
With both Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch - a player I profiled briefly last year after he stood out a mile during pre-season - this is most definitely the case. Connor Wickham was allowed to leave for Crystal Palace, Adam Johnson is injured for a good few months, Emanuele Giaccherini looks set to leave on a loan deal before Tuesday's deadline, nobody wants to claim ownership of Ricky Alvarez, and the club are clearly looking to shift on Will Buckley and Charis Mavrias at whatever cost.
The fact of the matter is that we don't seem to have a raft of quality players lined up ready to join, nor do we have the strength in depth in the squad challenging in those roles. Being honest, only Jeremain Lens is fit and ready to take up a starting berth out wide, meaning Jermain Defoe has been shoehorned onto the right hand side to accomodate for the lack of quality or numbers we have available to play that position.
Of course, we do still have time to rectify this. As I mentioned before, the transfer window does not close until Tuesday evening and although time is running out, the club will be looking to make signings - though, whether we get another quality wide player is anybody's guess. News today would suggest that Jonathan De Guzman isn't particularly keen on coming here unless it's his last option, and a loan move for Adnan Januzaj is long dead in the water.
With all of that in mind, Dick Advocaat was forced yesterday evening into naming a rather inexperienced bench for the cup game against Exeter City and, through injuries to Steven Fletcher and Adam Matthews, he was forced into shuffling his pack and allowing Gooch and Watmore to play in the second half and show what they are capable of. Neither man disappointed.
Watmore defined 'worst nightmare' - his constant harrying of the Exeter defenders in the latter stages of the game must have been absolutely horrific to play up against. His tireless work ethic got him a goal and sparked life into a Sunderland team completely devoid of any sort of pace and hunger. This was typified in the goal he scored, not giving up on a ball which appeared to be a simple collection for the Exeter goalkeeper.
Similarly, Lynden Gooch made an impact but in a slightly different way. He's very calm on the ball, and showed off a delightful range of passing and skill not often seen by Sunderland fans. Well, not by our lot, anyhow.
Don't get me wrong, I totally understand what we were up against. Exeter aren't the greatest side in league two and made the long trip up North having made a number of changes to their side. Although they seemed to keep pace with us throughout the first half it was obvious they just couldn't maintain their performance levels throughout the second half, which certainly made our job of finishing them off alot easier.
If we're going to write off the impact that Watmore and Gooch made, we must also pay less attention to the performances of our defenders. John O'Shea, Seb Coates and Adam Matthews were sloppy and we conceded three very poor goals, all due to defensive lapses. You know as well as I do that our defence have hardly showered themselves in glory in the opening three league fixtures of the season, and their showing yesterday evening was no exception. Just because we conceded three terrible goals against Exeter, it shouldn't mean we should just shrug it off as one of those days. Those two lads were given a chance and totally lit up the crowd with their desire.
By no means do I think either player should be starting games on a regular basis this season. By no means.
In an ideal world we will be in a position next Wednesday where we have a healthy squad we are confident can improve us throughout the season and see us avoid another relegation struggle. In an ideal world they'll be slowly integrated into our first team squad and, eventually, be given a chance here and there to further prove themselves.
All signs seem to point to frustration on the transfer front, and it's something that cannot be ignored. Should we continue to manage to miss out on our top targets throughout the rest of this window, Dick Advocaat may be forced to look towards the likes of Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch as serious first team players. It's not ideal, but it isn't the end of the world either. I'd much rather they gave an opportunity to a young player that has busted their balls to get a chance, as opposed to naming the likes of Giaccherini or Buckley on the bench purely because they're the only other senior options we have available.
Do you think that it's time to give youth a chance, or do you think it's too much responsibility to be giving a young player like Duncan Watmore, or Lynden Gooch? Vote in our poll below.