It has often been argued in years gone by that Sunderland’s reluctance to loan out promising young players has had a negative impact on their development.
A host of young players including the likes of Tom Robson, Josh Robson, Andy Nelson, and Rees Greenwood among others have all arguably been let down by the club’s hesitancy in offering U23 players the chance to go and experience regular first-team football.
Recently, however, Jack Ross has hinted that several promising youngsters could well be loaned out in an effort at developing them into better players, and that’s an exciting prospect.
There are others, like Jack Diamond and Jake Hackett, Jack Bainbridge, all of those at the higher end of the U23s, they need to go out on loan and benefit from that.
We’ve seen that it helps players and they’re the ones who would benefit most from it and would be the ones that could potentially go out between now and the end of the month.
Young players trying to make a name for themselves in the world of football simply must be allowed to challenge themselves against a tougher standard of opposition. They must also be exposed to the harsh realities of life outside of the Academy.
Forcing a player into an unfamiliar situation tests their resolve, character, adaptability, and presents them with a vital opportunity to highlight their strengths both off the pitch as well as on it.
There are higher expectations from teammates, fans, and coaching staff on the players to win - especially when young Lads realise that a lot of their teammates at lower-league clubs will be relying on success to pay the bills month to month. It’s a wake up call that should serve to act as motivation to strive for constant improvement. Spells at lower levels show young Lads the harsh realities of many people’s dreams of grandeur. It’s not all fast cars and flash houses, it’s about making enough to support a family and pay the bills.
Sunderland’s youngsters need that kind of reality check in order to kindle a burning sense of ambition to find lasting success. Many are, of course, naturally driven, but offering them a peek behind the curtain is something that would serve them well as humans, never mind professional footballers.
Furthermore, Sunderland’s decision to loan out younger players has already resulted in some success. For example, Elliot Embleton’s loan spell to Grimsby last season emphasised Embleton’s qualities - something Ross has noted. As such, Embleton will feature in the first team this season, thanks largely to the fact that he has proven himself capable of playing in the football league.
The argument could also be made that had Ethan Robson and Denver Hume had loan spells earlier in their careers then perhaps the club could have expedited their development. Hume still looks like he’s finding his feet in professional football, though there are flashes of talent - the same could be said of Robson.
That’s why it’s really promising to see Ross giving youngsters a chance lower down the football pyramid. Jordan Hunter and Lee Connelly’s move to South Shields is a prime example of this.
Although just up the road, the aforementioned youngsters will be training and playing with the likes of Jon Shaw, Blair Adams, and Craig Baxter - players with an abundance of experience. They will be challenged, taken out of their comfort zone and expected to contribute to a side winning more than its fair share of competitive football. It’s a win-win for the club and the players - especially if they can deliver the goods for their adopted team.
Giving Bainbridge, Diamond and Hackett the chance to go somewhere and prove their worth is a decision that needs to be applauded.
Ross could bubble-wrap his youngsters and allow them to play in the sterile world of Academy football. Instead, though, he has seemingly encouraged the club to both test and develop the talent within our system.
Will any of the young lads mentioned be capable of helping Sunderland find success in the future? Maybe. But you’d struggle to gauge their talent if they’re left to play other youngsters with little pushing them to prove their worth.
Sunderland’s backroom staff deserve credit for offering these Lads a chance to flourish.