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Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road

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Are we witnessing the birth of a special young generation of Sunderland players on Wearside?

Sunderland’s substitutes stole the headlines during Saturday’s draw with Watford, and as Finlay Anderson writes, could this be the birth of a special young generation on Wearside?

Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

When the full time whistle was blown at Vicarage Road, the travelling Sunderland supporters hailed the club’s younger generation, most notably game-changers Jewison Bennette, Amad Diallo and Abdoullah Ba.

In a gesture that spoke a thousand words, Luke O’Nien ushered both Bennette and Diallo towards the 2,000 red and white faithful and urged them to take in the support.

In truth, this proved to be their day in north west London.

When Diallo was brought on with sixty three minutes on the clock, and on the back of going one goal down, Sunderland needed an attacking outlet and the Manchester United loanee provided it.

We began to turn the tide of Watford pressure, as some neat interplay started to pay dividends. Too often, particularly in the first half, the Black Cats were crying out for a big, strong attacking outlet to match the Hornets’ physicality in defence, but without the injured Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms, Tony Mowbray’s side were restricted to keeping the ball on the deck and moving it fairly quickly.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mowbray tried to counteract Watford’s height by giving Aji Alese the freedom to roam slightly further forward, and he won some key aerial battles that Jack Clarke struggled with. This provided us with a platform and we began to claw our way back into the contest.

A debatable offside call came and went from Clarke’s impressive volley into the bottom corner, after he should have had a penalty in the first half following a clear shove in the back by Hamza Choudhury.

In the end, it looked as though we were going to have to settle for nothing after Leon Dajaku squandered a superb opportunity seven minutes from time, but in the eighty seventh minute, up popped Sunderland’s new Costa Rican maestro.

After Bryan Oviedo left the club in 2019, no one ever thought about Sunderland’s next Costa Rican player, but in Bennette, we’ve found a new Wearside fan favourite.

Through his celebration, it was clear what this moment meant to him.

After all, he’s a player that has taken a huge risk (both personally and professionally) to make a move from his home country from over 5,000 miles away, at a time when it was unknown exactly how we would adapt to the second tier.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After two cameo appearances in the red and white, however, he’s someone that many would like to see start against Preston North End after the international break, for his first experience of the Stadium of Light.

How he will adapt to that environment, we simply don’t know, but if his performances against Reading and Watford are anything to go by, it’s something that he won’t fear.

Before that, the eighteen-year-old will gain more experience on the international stage as part of a Costa Rica squad that will travel to South Korea and Uzbekistan within the next week.

Over the coming weeks, the Black Cats need to manage Bennette well.

There’s no doubt that he will feature on a more regular basis after this international break, and he’ll be a player that will want to force his way into Costa Rica’s squad for the Qatar World Cup, where they’re in a group with Spain, Germany and Japan.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Overall, this was an afternoon for the youngster, among many others, to savour.

The character of this Sunderland team continues to improve week after week, but now it’s time for the international break, a period when the squad can recover and regroup ahead of a second big push of the campaign before the World Cup break.

However, Tony Mowbray’s men head into their time off in style, with fifteen points from their opening ten matches.

Not bad for a team of youngsters, is it?

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