Almost everyone will agree that this season has been pretty rotten so far, and it’s been difficult to remain positive through yet more testing times.
There’s a lot that can be discussed with regard to our inefficiencies; however, there has been one thing to raise the mood somewhat - the fact that several youngsters are being given the chance to prove their worth.
In the last few games, it’s been fair to say that both Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman have been two of our better players. Should we hope that these young lads can help rectify our faltering fortunes, or are we simply asking too much too soon?
After the humiliating 5-2 defeat away to Ipswich last week Simon Grayson was quoted as stating:
It’s probably summed up when you go into the dressing room and one of the younger lads says, ‘we’re soft as such and such’ - and he’s right.
This could be totally off the mark, but it feels like those words came from either Gooch or Honeyman’s mouth. They’re passionate young lads, who give their all for the badge - a stark contrast to some of our more senior players who feel like they’re merely here to collect a wage packet.
Yes they’re young, but the passion within them is clear for all to see. They’re keen to prove their worth to the team and the fans because they know what it means to want to play senior football for the side that raised them. It’s tribalism as its finest, and we need to harness their determination, not mollycoddle it.
They might be young, but they’re desperate to succeed - and we need people who want to win because right too many players in our team look incapable of finding success.
Statistically speaking, Gooch and Honeyman have been involved in almost half of our goals this season. Gooch has scored one and provided two assists in his last three games, while Honeyman has two league goals this campaign as well as a pearler in the cup. We’re asking a lot of these young lads, yet they’re already providing.
Watching the Preston draw last weekend, there was a moment early in the second half where both players linked up incredibly well with some impressive passing and movement on the left flank. They had the Preston defence struggling to contain their direct play, and yet no-one else around them was willing to get involved; everyone else stood motionless simply ball watching, and all momentum gained in that minute-or-so’s worth of intricate play was lost. Where was the run from deep? Where was the option inside? The lads were left to work something from nothing.
They want to play a direct, attacking brand of football, yet those around them seem crippled by an anxiety that prevents them from following suit. Surely the link-up play between Gooch and Honeyman for our first goal last weekend was enough to demonstrate the worth in giving youth a chance? Few other Sunderland players would have attempted such a deft back heel in an attempt at setting up a team-mate, yet Gooch did. He also stood up to take the penalty against Cardiff the week before.
Confidence is key in football, and these young lads play with the arrogance of youth. They’re not afraid to try things, and want to make things happen. Watching our games I’ve noticed that they seem to be the only players consistently looking forward when in possession of the ball; they pass and move with an intent lacking elsewhere on the pitch.
Technically they can be a little rough around the edges at times, but that comes with experience - something they should get a decent amount of this season. What matters right now is that they’re getting minutes on the pitch, and have provided positive performances.
So while others around them have failed to deliver the goods, it’s clear to see that our two youngsters have provided flickers of flair and creativity with their ambition and desire. Gooch and Honeyman have thrown down the gauntlet - here’s hoping they can continue to progress and improve.