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Fan Letters: “Sunderland’s future MUST include showcasing more academy players in League One!”

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Roker Report reader Adam Heslop thinks that having a clear development path for academy players in the first team needs to be made a high priority going forward. Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk - we’ll include your message in the next edition.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

After watching Jordan Henderson captain Liverpool to a home leg rout last Tuesday night against Roma the possibility of watching our very own academy product lifting the Champions League became real. Couple that with Jordan Pickford the natural choice to be England’s number one goalkeeper at the World Cup, I started to think about our academy and the future of our club with the current crop.

Our academy in my opinion has been a success. Granted, it’s not La Masia of Barcelona level but I think it has served us well in recent times. As mentioned above, it has produced the current Liverpool captain and England number one. Both brought in a combined fee of £50 million, that is something not to be sniffed at.

We have also produced/developed some very good Championship standard players in Grant Leadbitter, Martyn Waghorn, Jack Colback, John Egan, and Conor Hourihane. We saw the emergence of Duncan Watmore from it also, yes we bought him in but the academy developed him. This season we have had George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Ethan Robson, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Elliott Embleton all feature for the first team.

Ipswich Town v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

The players we produced or developed that are now plying their trade in the league we are about to depart would all in no uncertain terms have gave us a better chance to stay up this season. Makes me wonder, instead of signing Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo could we have spent that money on Hourihane and Egan whilst playing Tommy Robson left-back and planned for the Championship earlier?

Alternatively could we have given these players a chance in the past and got a return on them, instead of releasing them for free?

Lee Cattermole, Lamine Kone, Marc Wilson, Billy Jones, Wahbi Khazri, Didier Ndong, Adam Matthews and Oviedo will all surely be out the door to reduce the wage bill and raise funds to help run the club. I just hope we can hold on to Paddy McNair who right now is head and shoulders above the rest.

Our academy has produced in the past and it will continue to do so, lets use it for once. Bring in the experienced heads needed for League One but lets not bloat the squad with journeymen. Bring in players who make a difference and then use our own to plug the gaps. Nelson got rave reviews whilst on loan at Falkirk, as has Tom Beadling at Dunfermline, where he is playing in midfield.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

I’d much rather watch a team of our academy lads make a fist of it next year and watch them develop than another year of Lee Cattermole’s plodding around with his hands on his hips. If that were to be the case I’d like to think the people who go to the games next season would see it for what it was.

The fans would back them to the hilt - yes we would lose at times and yes we would play shite at times - but if the lads were giving their all I’m sure most would accept it and the toxic atmosphere would subdue.

Who knows, out of this lot we may get another England international or see one of them move on making us a nice wedge and be on the cusp of more European glory. The main thing though would be that we have a team to be proud of and one for the future that could develop in to something special.

Adam Heslop

Ed’s Note [JN]: I agree. Last time we were in the third tier in 1987, a whole host of academy players came through to become club legends. However, this was done alongside the signings of some experienced pro’s who knew the division.

Many may not like it, but we need to look at Rafael Benitez and his time leading Newcastle in the Championship. Daryl Murphy and Grant Hanley were never going to stay more than a year, but he signed what he had to in order to get out of the league as quick as possible (the right way up too). We need to sign physical presences and players with vast experience of League One as well as promoting some of the youngsters.