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Talking Points: Sunderland need signings - but our youngsters deserve a chance in the first team

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In our post-South Shields edition of Talking Points we’re looking at Sunderland’s tactical shift, the new lads, and how our youngsters deserve a chance in the first team despite the fact we need to make new signings.

South Shields v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Promising signs from Sunderland’s youngsters

Whilst naturally there’s a clamour from eager supporters for the club to bring on board a raft of new signings this summer, it’s quietly gone unnoticed that Sunderland have a clutch of young players who are ready for roles in the first team squad - something which became even more apparent during last night’s game at Mariners Park to those in attendance.

The best players on the pitch - Grant Leadbitter aside, who was terrific - were all academy graduates. Ethan Robson, Elliot Embleton and Benji Kimpioka in particular didn’t just not look out of place, but also looked as good as some of their more experienced teammates.

Ethan Robson in particular was great. He’s clearly benefited from his loan away at Dundee and has returned a more refined, rugged player.

He harassed the Shields midfielders to win us back possession, looked classy on the ball and always looked to make incisive passes forward. He took his goal well, reminding the Sunderland supporters that central midfielders who look to get beyond the strikers and follow in when loose balls crop up do indeed still exist!

South Shields v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tactics were interesting...

Sunderland set up in a system which appeared to be different to the one we used at the end of last season, with three central defenders making up our back line and wing backs supporting the midfield.

Is this a sign of a shift in tactical approach from Jack Ross, or was he simply setting the players up in a manner that allowed him to give everyone the game-time they required?

I guess only time will tell, but it would be safe to say that most fans believe a change in setup is required from Ross if we’re going to play a more attacking brand of football, one that will achieve the kind of results that Sunderland will require if they’re going to win the league next season.

South Shields v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Great to see the new lads

Conor McLaughlin and Lee Burge had their first taste of action in a Sunderland shirt last night, and it was good to see them out there giving the supporters a glimpse of what they’re capable of.

Burge made a couple of very good saves in the first half, whilst McLaughlin was confident and assured playing on the right hand side of the central defensive three, distributing the ball effectively and making his voice heard with his new teammates.

Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come, that we’re bringing on board big characters with their best years still ahead of them who can really add something to the group of players that Sunderland already possess.

South Shields v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Credit goes to our opponents...

I have to commend South Shields following my matchday experience yesterday.

What a fantastic little club.

Their facilities for a non-league side are excellent, and the pitch was in absolutely immaculate condition - the perfect playing surface for a game like this where you just want your players to feel their way back onto the pitch after their lengthy break.

I certainly hope Sunderland will make their trips to Mariners Park in pre-season a more regular occurrence.