Micky - Josh Robson!
As a Sunderland supporter I am wary of "throwing the kids in", although it’s always great to see a young lad come through the system and make the grade at first team level. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to handing youngsters their debuts.
There are a number of reasons for this - most importantly I don’t believe U21s football adequately prepares players for the challenges of the Premier League. I regularly attend U21s games and they often lack a competitive edge and obviously are not a true reflection of the physicality of men’s football.
I would usually be reluctant to give Josh Robson a baptism of fire at the Etihad Stadium - at his age a poor display could ruin his confidence - however I think the context of our current situation is important to remember.
Donald Love has the slight edge in terms of competitive experience having played on loan at Wigan last season, but the Scottish youth international has not featured at all in pre-season for Manchester United.
This is in stark contrast to Josh Robson, who has benefited from Sunderland’s wafer lack of senior players this summer. Josh has featured in all but one friendly, including playing the full ninety minutes at Rotherham.
This has a number of advantages for Robson - firstly he will be used to both playing and training with the rest of the back four. Understanding is a particularly useful attribute for any defender to possess and Robson’s experience of playing alongside the rest of the back four this summer gives him an edge over Love.
Obviously, another big factor is match sharpness, playing against high quality opposition can only be beneficial to Robson’s case to make his Premier League bow. The youngster has looked assured whenever called upon this pre-season and can hopefully carry this form into the first team.
I mentioned earlier that my case to include Robson goes against my usual stance on including youngsters in the starting eleven, but at the age of 21 Donald Love is little more than a kid, himself. Like Robson, Love has very limited first team experience with just three months of competitive first team football under his belt.
The Rochdale born defender only signed for the club two days ago and therefore will have had little time to adapt to David Moyes’s training methods and tactics, as well as not lining up alongside our other defenders.
In summary, throwing in Josh Robson is not an ideal scenario for anyone but I believe that due to Robson’s displays during pre-season and Love’s lack of football in recent weeks that it should be the Sunderland academy product who is given the opportunity to start the season at right back.
Gav - Donald Love!
I get that Josh Robson has played a fair amount of football in pre-season at right back but I'm not entirely sure I'd be throwing him in there against Manchester City today.
Whoever plays is in for a tough afternoon regardless. That said, Donald Love has already played in the Premier League at least and had a spell at Wigan. This doesn't make him a better player than Robson but it would suggest that he would perhaps be better prepared for making his Sunderland debut against a side with the quality that Manchester City possess.
You'd have to think that there is some significance in Donald making his Sunderland debut playing in Manchester, right? I think so. He's just left their rivals, after all.
We've just paid out a seven figure sum for the lad, and you have to think that though he maybe wasn't expecting to be making his first start for us so early that he is probably the stronger option of the two. It's not exactly sink or swim time but he can at least retain his place for the Middlesbrough game with a strong performance.
Love also perhaps has something to prove that you could say that Josh Robson doesn't - he'll be keen to show Manchester United that they were wrong to sell him and that he can perform on the highest stage, something that they clearly didn't feel he was capable of or they wouldn't have let him leave.
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