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'You get some crap if you're cocky here'; Youngster lifts the lid on life at Sunderland's academy

Academy prospect Oscar Krusnell has been talking to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in a fascinating insight into life at the Academy of Light, living in a foreign country and who at Sunderland has the most influence on the young players at the club.


Swedish 18-year-old Oscar Krusnell has lifted the lid on life as a fledgling academy prospect at Sunderland.

In a wide-ranging interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the promising left-back talks British culture, training with Premier League stars and living on Wearside. The interview is a unique insight into life as a youth player at a top English club.

Oscar Krusnell at the Stadium of Light, credit Aftonbladet

Krusnell signed for Sunderland in 2015 from Stockholm-based AIK on an initial two-year scholarship and is now on a youth deal to 2019. The youngster joined striker Joel Asoro as part of a Swedish intake that year and has been a regular in academy youth teams since his arrival.

In the interview, Krusnell tells which players at the Stadium of Light spend most time with the club's young prospects, describes his life growing up in Sunderland and outlines his hopes for his own future in the professional game.

The 18-year-old reveals he lives with a host family with whom he has grown close, who have their own teenage and grown-up children and how a couple of years in Sunderland has already left him with a Wearside twang,

I know some of my teammates are not as close to their [host] families as I am. I sit and talk with them, hang out with them, go to the movies with them.

A far cry yet from the flash motors parked at the Academy of Light, Krusnell talks of his plans to learn to drive and perhaps get himself an Audi A1 when he passes his test. And on the difference between Scandinavian and English football, the teenager says,

Technically here they are not so very much better than in Sweden or physically, it's just that everything is much faster.

And on the coaching style at the Academy of Light,

The coach can point to you and say 'it's your fault that that happened today' and you get the hairdryer [the Alex Ferguson version]

It was hard at first but I got over it pretty quickly. Sometimes it's tough to hear, but it may be good to hear it sometimes so that you know well. They are not afraid to confront you here.

As an example, Krusnell describes a recent defeat by Middlesbrough - the Under-18s were walloped by five-goals-to-one by their Teesside rivals in January,

They said if you play like this you will never be able to play in the Under-23s.

After that we had two days off which is too short to be able to go home, so I stayed here and lay at home for two days and thought about that damned game. Then it is tough not to have your family here. But then it was Tuesday and back to training and everything was fine again.

The academy prospect shares the same representative as veteran midfielder Sebastian Larsson who has been with Sunderland for six years, and Krusnell reveals the 31-year-old Swedish international is supportive of his progress,

We have the same agent and we were injured during the same period of time so we hung out a lot in the gym and rode bicycles and raced each other.

Since then he asks how everything goes. Now it's not such a big deal but when I first came it was great being able to talk to Sebastian Larsson,

And Krusnell has a special mention for another veteran Sunderland man who spends more time encouraging the youth players than some of the other senior professionals at the club,

Some are nice - such as captain John O'Shea. He talks to us all the time....There are some - perhaps more foreign players - who do not talk or greet you, but it's not something I'd expect either.

The entire first year I was always a little starstruck when Jermain Defoe came by.

Watford v Sunderland - Premier League
Sunderland's John O'Shea
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Despite the riches of English football, it's clear that hard-work and humility are drummed into Sunderland's young players,

You are constantly reminded that it is ugly to not be humble. You get shit if you act cocky.

When my friend came in with a cap and necklace people just said 'who do you think you are'. Then he had to pay £20 in fines.

Krusnall also reveals that standard 'fines' for rule-breaking start at £10 and extend to singing in front of teammates as 'punishment'.

And despite playing in an English northern outpost, it seems there are some tough rules in the academy sides about wearing thermals,

Another thing is training with a hat or mittens, it's a big no-no. It doesn't happen unless it's freezing cold.

Krusnell suggests that the best thing about living in Sunderland is the people - 'everyone is nice and sociable'; and that the ones to watch amongst his current team mates in the youth set-up are Joel Asoro and Josh Maja. On the latter he says,

Maja is not as fast as Joel but he has an incredible first touch. It's the sickest first touch I've seen - better than anyone else in Sunderland. He can take the ball out of nowhere.

Sunderland v Everton: Premier League 2
Josh Maja
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Krusnall describes his typical week with three educational sessions in a classroom - the equivalent of a high-school education - and how he enjoys the British tradition of a Sunday dinner.

You can read the rest of the interview here and there's even a photo of young Oscar enjoying fish and chips at Minchella's down at Seaburn.

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