Luke Molyneux - who was born and bred in Durham and has been with the club since he was 15 - has comfortably been the best player in our academy squad this season. Since recovering from a long-term knee injury, Molyneux has picked up from where he left off - scoring for fun and standing out like a sore thumb in a side that has badly under-achieved throughout the current campaign.
He got another two goals from the wing yesterday afternoon in Sunderland’s 4-1 win over title-chasers Leicester City, further establishing himself as a top prospect that has perhaps been overshadowed by the emergence of the talented Joel Asoro in the first-team this season.
Whilst Asoro is undoubtedly the most exciting player coming through at the club at the moment, with relegation to League One on the cards it’s expected that he’ll receive interest from better-placed clubs up the food chain - and whilst staying around on Wearside and playing regular football would be a good proving ground for the young Swede, it’s unlikely that the club would turn away any decent offers for him should a lucrative bid be made.
Molyneux may well be behind Asoro in the pecking order right now but in what is likely to be a surprise to some, he’s two years older than his fellow wide-man. Any doubts around whether or not he’s old enough to be at least considered for first team action should be immediately dispelled, particularly when we look likely to be playing third-tier football next season and have an unbelievable overhaul of the playing squad to undertake once the summer rolls around.
Under the management of Chris Coleman the Stadium of Light has truly been the land of opportunity for young players. Though the season is not quite over yet, it will be interesting to see what sort of direction the manager takes once our fate has been sealed, and we at least know that there’s no pressure involved in the remaining games we have left to play.
Taking Molyneux’s fine form for our second string into account, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that we should see him given a chance to at least be around the first team on a matchday for the final few games.
He’s proven that he’s over the knee injury which kept him out for three months earlier in the campaign, and if anyone in that side deserves a chance it’s him. He has without a shadow of a doubt been the player of the season in our U23s side and deserves at least an opportunity to show what he can do on a slightly larger stage.
Whether he’s considered worthy of being a part of Coleman’s first team plans in League One is not yet clear, and perhaps his fine form this year might - at the least - just earn him a loan move elsewhere. But whilst many other youngsters have been given a chance this season and have thrived, Molyneux has very quietly gone about his business in the background, slowly but surely working himself right up to this point. In 11 starts this season for Elliott Dickman’s side he’s scored six goals, and has assisted many others.
For those that aren’t aware of what Molyneux’s capabilities actually are I advise you check out some of the goals that he’s scored on Youtube - in short, he’s a complete throwback winger, the type that likes to cut inside from the right, drive at defenders with pace and score goals.
Physically he’s bigger than most of his teammates, he has a fair bit of pace and an abundance of skill - all fantastic attributes that makes him, in my eyes, the most impressive player that we have currently on our books not to be given a chance to show what he can do for the first team in ‘proper’ senior football.
So whilst it’s been great seeing so many young lads get their break this year, personally I’d love nothing more than to see what Molyneux can do when given an opportunity.
I’m not saying he should be starting games, nor do I think he’s some sort of prodigy, but that I feel that we should take his good form into account and take a closer look at what he might be able to offer the first team next season.
Luke Molyneux has been the embodiment of just that recently, and I’d love nothing more than to see him given a spotlight to show exactly what he’s capable of, albeit in a completely unfamiliar situation.