The news that Jack Diamond has signed a new contract has added to the good feeling on Wearside recently. The 21-year-old has agreed on fresh terms with his boyhood club and is set to remain at the Stadium of Light until the summer of 2024.
With Kristjaan Speakman over 100 days into his role as Sporting Director, the focus on tying down our most coveted young players must become a trend.
Diamond has earned his new deal; his performances since Lee Johnson brought him into the side have been promising. His raw pace and direct nature give Sunderland’s attack a further dimension that other players don’t necessarily possess.
His 45-minute performance away at Lincoln back in December epitomised what he brings to the team and his goal was simply delicious - and despite being in and out of the team throughout 2021, he has found himself rather unlucky to not feature more often, given Lynden Gooch’s inconsistency recently.
Yet, the new deal is bigger than just Diamond himself.
Sunderland have tied down their second highly-rated youngster this season after Dan Neil signed a three-year deal back in October. In recent years, amongst countless other failings, fans have been frustrated at losing highly coveted talent to other academies.
We're delighted to announce that Jack Diamond has signed a new long-term contract with the club.— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) March 31, 2021
Joe Hugill, sold to Manchester United for £300,000 last summer, is now on the precipice of the first-team at Old Trafford after a sensational start to life in their U23’s. Similarly, Sam Greenwood signed for Leeds for £3million this summer and bagged a hat-trick against our U23’s. Sunderland sold him for just £250,000 just two years ago.
Others have gone too, Bali Mumba is now enjoying life at the top of the Championship with Norwich after Sunderland failed to tie him down, instead, selling him for a pittance.
However, since the new regime has taken over, a fresh focus has been placed on the youth set-up. Elliott Dickman’s U23’s are finally winning games again after a year without one. Diamond’s new contract feels like a big moment for the young lads wanting a chance with Lee Johnson’s first team.
Speakman’s methods are also helpful in this regard. In his time at Birmingham, which oversaw the development of Jude Bellingham, Demari Gray and Nathan Redmond, he implemented a system that dictated that at least five academy graduates should be in the first team at any one time.
This provides a clear pathway to the first-team for young players to emerge. Sunderland’s academy should be producing players for the Sunderland first-team; not the teams of Manchester United and co.
Gooch’s winner at Wembley against Tranmere was a fantastic moment; a Sunderland academy graduate scoring the goal to win a cup final. But tying down the next generation of Sunderland stars is essential if the KLD and Speakman era is to be a success.
Jack Diamond could be the first of many to commit his future and become a local hero.