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Youth Stars All Set For EFL Experience

The amount of game time our youngsters have seen this summer stands them in good stead to earn important loans to good Football League sides.

Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Tommy Robson. Michael Ledger. Tom Beadling. Josh Robson. Ethan Robson. George Honeyman. Lynden Gooch. Rees Greenwood. Joel Asoro. Elliott Embleton.

Outside of Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore - two youngsters that are already integral to the first team squad at Sunderland - the ten players that I have listed there are clearly viewed as the most promising talents that we have at our disposal from our academy system. That much was evident in the fact that all of them were afforded game time as part of our first team squad throughout pre-season.

What does it take for a player to bridge that enormous gap between being a successful youth to becoming a first teamer at a Premier League club, though? I suppose there is no perfect formula. You've either got it or you haven't, though the right timing is almost as important to breaking through as being so talented that you just cannot be ignored.

Clubs like ours can't afford to just throw young players in at the deep end and then expect them to know how to swim. Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore earned their places through making their name outside of our first team - Pickford's loan at Preston prompted Sam Allardyce to bring him back to the club and sell Costel Pantilimon to Watford, whilst Watmore's performances on loan at Hibernian and for our U21s side got him into the England set up and, in turn, a place in our Premier League squad.

Before them were Jack Colback, Jordan Henderson and Martyn Waghorn, all players that went out on loan to Football League clubs and came back to Sunderland more rounded players, working their way into our first team in the process. Clearly, in order to get noticed at Sunderland you need to go away and be successful at other clubs, or be so talented that you are almost impossible to ignore.

With the advent of the EFL Trophy, clubs like ours might be reluctant to send players out on loan when it might be felt that keeping them here to play in those games would be more beneficial, but I sincerely hope that's not the case.

There's no real room for sentiment in this process either.

Mikael Mandron looked like a world beater for our U21s side but he was unsuccessful when on loan at Fleetwood and Hartlepool, so he was inevitably released. Ryan Noble too - now there's a player who probably should have made it. For whatever reason, though, he went out on loan to a variety of clubs, failed, and was moved on following the expiration of his contract without making any sort of impact within our first team squad.

My point is that we need to build upon the game time some of these players have earned during the summer by getting them loan moves to football teams slightly lower down the food chain. Embleton, Asoro and Ledger are still very raw, but the other players - Honeyman, Gooch, Josh Robson, Ethan Robson, Tommy Robson, Beadling and Greenwood - in my opinion need to be going away and earning experience at other clubs this year if they are to stand any chance of making it at Sunderland.

Sunderland - well, Moyes and his staff - know this though. If any of them go anywhere it wouldn't make sense to move them along right now, because our senior side is so threadbare that just about any of them could be called upon to play on Saturday against Manchester City in the event of unfortunate injuries. We've no doubt had enquiries for most of them already but are holding back on letting anyone go right now because it makes no sense until we've signed new players for the first team.

The fact that they've been so integral to our pre-season preparations is testament to the quality that they possess - they wouldn't be contracted by a Premier League club if they weren't talented enough to make it. As Mr Noble and Mr Mandron showed, though, most of the time just being a very good U21s player isn't enough.

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