Sunderland youngsters Duncan Watmore and Josh Maja are expected to play some part this evening for our U23s side in their Premier League International Cup clash with German side Hertha Berlin at the Stadium of Light (7pm kick off).
Joining them on their road to recovery from injury will be Northern Ireland international Paddy McNair, who will kick his first ball in a proper game since leaving the field with a horrific knee injury last November in our game against Hull City.
Watmore returned to the first team with an appearance off the bench against Preston before the international break but still needs to play more football and is expected to start tonight’s game alongside McNair, whilst there is an outside chance that Josh Maja - who has been out since pre-season having suffered a knee injury at Bradford - could make the bench.
The trio will likely not be the only first teamers taking part, though, because with the likes of Elliot Embleton, Joel Asoro and Michael Woud away on international duty it means that there are spots in the side that U23s manager Elliott Dickman needs to fill.
Jack Rodwell, Mika, Donald Love and Brendan Galloway featured in the Checkatrade Trophy game away at Doncaster Rovers last week and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the foursome could take part tonight too, with Love and Galloway meeting the correct age criteria which allows them to play.
Speaking on SAFC.com about the Doncaster performance and the game tonight, head coach Dickman hopes that his side can continue to built upon their fantastic form in last season’s competition which saw them reach the final. He said:
Doncaster was a tough game and it was good to play against a first team, but in my experience these international games are always a different challenge for the players and for us as staff.
Andy Welsh, Cliff Byrne and the rest of the staff did really well last year to get through the group, and then we managed to get through the next few rounds to reach the final. It was a great experience and very tough game, but we have a different squad this season and the main thing is about making sure we see the lads progress and improve as players.
Some of the lads might have missed out on playing at the Stadium of Light at Youth Cup level - due to injuries or selection - so it’s important they sample the atmosphere and don’t get overawed by it. Hopefully they enjoy it but there’s enough experience within the group to help those lads, so hopefully we can get a result as well.
Those wishing to attend this evening’s game must be aware that, unlike other U23s games, entry is not free of charge with your season card due to competition rules. Tickets, available on Turnstiles 1-8 and 17-24, are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for under-16s and over-65s.
Here’s hoping that the lads can get a positive result, and that those youngsters returning from injury can get some much-needed game time under their belts whilst remaining relatively unscathed.