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Port Vale v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round

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Are you surprised by how well Sunderland’s young players have slotted in?

Has the seamless way that Sunderland’s best young players have just slotted into the first team already this season surprised you?

Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Phil West says...

I’m not entirely surprised at how well the young players have taken to playing first-team football so far because I’ve felt for quite a while that we had players with huge potential and talent. As we saw last season, the academy is definitely in better shape than it has been for a while, and to his credit, Lee Johnson has put a lot of faith in the academy graduates, and he is clearly eager to open up pathways to the first team for them. This, in my opinion, shows that the club’s philosophy is changing, and that is long overdue.

In order for the club to achieve its aim this season, I felt that a mixture of experience and youth would be the way to go, and so far, that balance seems to have been struck quite well. We certainly haven’t brought in the number of external signings that many would’ve expected, and I do feel that more are needed, but at this moment there is genuine cause for optimism on the back of what we’ve seen so far.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Dan Neil has caught the eye so far this season
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In terms of players that have caught the eye, Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil are two players that have certainly impressed early doors. Embleton has added some spark and dynamism to our attacking play, and against Wigan, Neil did a sterling job in a position that is not natural to him. Cirkin’s signing will hopefully free Neil up to move back into his regular position, from which he can hopefully continue to progress.

It was also extremely pleasing to see Josh Hawkes get on the scoresheet against Port Vale. He’s another player who could certainly become a first-team regular as the season unfolds, and he took his goal with consummate composure, following a lovely pass from Alex Pritchard.

Much has been made of our low-key transfer business so far, but to fixate on that would be to lose sight of the bigger picture. There are some hugely exciting players already on the club’s books, and if Johnson continues to back them, they’re only going to get better as the season progresses.

Gary Engel says...

Well, if anyone was in any doubts why some of our transfer business was so slow they may realise now. Lee Johnson has had the young players on the training pitch for the last nine months. While the latter stages of a season with a promotion run-in was not right to blood young players he will have had plans.

I’m sure some have even exceeded Johnson’s expectations. The lads have shown energy and some vision we appeared to be lacking. Add one or two older heads and fill one or two voids where we are lacking we could have a very exciting season in prospect.

Port Vale v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Josh Hawkes scored a lovely goal on Tuesday at Port Vale
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images,

Jack Howe-Gingell says...

I’m a big fan of using your talented young players.

For too long we have plugged gaps with has-beens and never-weres when we have had a plethora of decent young players who could fit the bill.

The Donald regime sold anyone they could, and a generation of future stars were arguably lost - thankfully, we now seem to have a far better stance on youth.

The likes of Embleton, Neil and Diamond are likely to feature regularly in the first team, and it’s just good to see. In particular, Embleton and Neil seem to be very comfortable on the ball, and I’m excited to see them continue to develop.

Others such as Josh Hawkes, Anthony Patterson and Ellis Taylor have shown against Port Vale and in pre-season that they could have parts to play as well, and I’m sure there are others having seen Younger, Dyce and Kimpioka also involved. This, again, is great to see and using your youth for depth is how it should be done.

We seem focused on signing quality and filling the gaps with youth. Long may it continue.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Embleton played well against Wigan
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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