Much has been made of Sunderland’s Academy of Light since it opened its doors in March of 2003. It’s officially certified as a UEFA five star academy, and you often hear players young and old wax lyrical about the state of the art facilities it possesses.
It’s been ten years since a highly rated Sunderland reserve side finished joint third in the FA Premier League, with much of that side playing as part of a team that was beaten on penalties in the Youth Cup final against Leicester City.
Many of the starting eleven were tipped for stardom and big moves away from the club in the future, but where did they end up?
Trevor Carson - now at Hartlepool
Young goalkeeper Trevor Carson seemed to appear on the bench every other week, but despite being part of the squad for numerous seasons, Carson never made one first team appearance for the club. After several loan moves, he made a permanent switch to Bury following impressive showings in the net. Unfortunately, his first full season at the club saw them relegated and he subsequently moved to free falling Portsmouth on loan. A period Cheltenham Town came in the summer of 2014, but he has since moved back north as number one for League Two side Hartlepool.
Robbie Weir - now at Leyton Orient
Irishman Weir was the captain of the 2007 youth squad and was on the fringes of the first team, without ever starting a game, for a number of years. Although no profit was made on the young former skipper, he has gone on to forge a solid career in the lower leagues - perhaps most notably playing over 160 games for Burton Albion where he won promotion to the Championship in 2015. He now plays at troubled Leyton Orient in League Two.
Jordan Henderson - now at Liverpool
We all know the story of Jordan Henderson. The home-grown talent is probably the most notable name the Academy has ever produced – although Jordan Pickford may challenge that in the coming years. He’s grown into one of the country’s best central midfielders since his move to Anfield and was one Steven Gerrard slip from becoming a Premier League champion. He’s captained his country and played in major tournaments. Without doubt, the best we’ve produced since the Academy was built.
Jack Colback - now at Newcastle United
Much like Henderson, we all know the story of our former midfielder now representing our fiercest rivals. He scored and played a huge part in two derby victories over the club he now lines up for, whilst also appearing in the 2014 League Cup final. He scored the opener in Sunderland’s 2-0 win over West Brom - the game which clinched Gus Poyet’s great escape - before moving eight miles up the road, claiming he could "no longer face a relegation battle". He then went on and subsequently got relegated... by Sunderland.
Billy Dennehy - now at St. Patrick’s Athletic
Perhaps one of the more obscure names from the line-up, the Irishman has actually had a successful career back in his home nation. A failed loan move to Accrington Stanley meant, like many young Irishmen, he moved back home to play alongside future Wearside winger James McClean at Derry. He then moved to Cork City after only a few months where he has had two stints sandwiched in-between a League of Ireland Championship with Shamrock Rovers. At Shamrock he also appeared in the Europa League in 2011. He now appears alongside his younger brother Darren for St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Jamie Chandler - now at Spennymoor
The central midfielder from Boldon Colliery has done relatively well in forging a path in the game. Capped several times by England from under-16 to under-19 level, a broken leg really hindered the progress of the youngster and ultimately put pay to his dream of playing first-team football at the Stadium of Light. A loan move to Darlington become permanent in 2010; however their well-documented financial issues faced meant that he ended up along the road at Gateshead. Whilst representing The Heed he played 146 games, in turn helping them to the Conference play-offs in 2014. He was released at the end of last season and is now lining up for Spennymoor Town.
Michael Kay - now retired
Born in Consett, the 6’1 right back actually managed to register one appearance in a red and white shirt, replacing Phil Bardsley in an FA Cup replay defeat to Blackburn Rovers. A loan move to Tranmere Rovers spearheaded his departure from the club as he moved to the Wirral in 2011. He spent two seasons at Tranmere, but made a move to Chester City in search of regular football at the end of the 12/13 season. He spent two years at the Deva Stadium before admitting he was no longer enjoying the game, retiring to join the fire service just last year, aged only 26.
Conor Hourihane - now at Aston Villa
Quite what happened with this one is a mystery. Signed by Roy Keane, the young Irishman was wanted by a host of top clubs; however the pull of Keane himself brought him to Wearside. Rough around the edges but with bags of talent, he never got near the first team and when he turned down a new contract at the Stadium of Light, Roy Keane took him again, this time to Ipswich Town on a free. Three seasons at Plymouth however bought him a 250k move to Barnsley. At Oakwell he became a fan favourite, and gained promotion from the play-offs in 2016, before continuing his good form in the Championship. Aston Villa then proceeded to shell out big money to purchase him in January.
Martyn Waghorn - now at Rangers
Rated highly by Roy Keane, the centre forward was given his debut in a Boxing Day defeat to Manchester United, where he picked up the man of the match award. "He's physically ahead of some of the other kids, you can see that" said Keano, tying him to a new deal merely weeks after. Always in an around the squad, a loan move to Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester City gave the youngster the springboard he needed to get into the match day squad. However a bid of £3m from the Foxes allowed him to move on. The move never really worked out though, and a number of loan moves meant he eventually found himself at Wigan where, despite his good individual performances, the Latics were relegated. Those performances did forge a move to Scottish giants Rangers where he won the championship with them in his first season. The forward has been linked with a move back to the club recently.
And what of the rest...?
Peter Hartley now appears for Bristol Rovers, whilst he captained his hometown club Hartlepool for three seasons beforehand.
Nathan Luscombe is now without a club after Celtic Nation dissolved in 2015.
David Dowson appears for Spennymoor, but turned out for Darlington before they were liquidated and subsequently renamed.
Michael Liddle plays under Alun Armstrong and former Sunderland defender Darren Holloway at Blyth Spartans following a spell at Accrington Stanley.
Jean-Yves M’Voto is now plying his trade in Scotland’s Championship with Raith Rovers following spells at Oldham Athletic, Barnsley, Leyton Orient, Southend and Zawisza.
Jack Pelter is now a free agent after spells at Vålerenga and Metro.
Jack Richardson never found a club after his release from the club and is assumed retired.