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Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road

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Roker Roundtable: “Can Sunderland’s young squad handle a heavy autumn schedule?”

With nine games in five weeks, the matches are coming thick and fast, so will the youthful energy and enthusiasm of Tony Mowbray’s squad be able to carry them through?

Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Ewan Bowman says…

I think it is an advantage.

We have a group of players who have featured in every game this season and have never given up. The younger players have so much enthusiasm to play for Sunderland, and I don’t think fatigue will become an issue.

As we are in good form, I think that playing back-to-back games will actually benefit us. Momentum is huge, especially in the Championship, and I believe this next run of games is crucial to our season

Having experienced players in the dressing room, such as Bailey Wright, Danny Batth & Alex Pritchard, will keep this group grounded, and I have not seen one game this season where the Lads have folded, given up or thrown the towel in.

This is a new Sunderland AFC and one we should be excited about watching!

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Kevin Barker says…

With the games coming thick and fast, I feel the young average age of the squad will be an advantage for us, particularly with the attacking players who haven’t played a lot of football yet.

The likes of Amad Diallo and Edouard Michut will be desperate for game time and as we saw last season, Jack Clarke is proof that the younger lads on loan want to show that they are good enough and worthy of a permanent contract.

Tony Mowbray can push them hard over the next few weeks, safe in the knowledge that they will get a break when the World Cup kicks off and following that, we should have reinforcements in the shape of Ross Stewart, Daniel Ballard and others.

I haven’t seen signs of burnout or players tiring in games in recent weeks - if anything, we have gotten stronger and those early games where we fizzled out after an hour seem to be behind us.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Phil West says…

I think it’s a real double-edged sword.

On one hand, we have a youthful squad that is bursting with energy and an eagerness to show what they can do, but on the other, relying so heavily on young players can lead to them being burned out - as we saw with the likes of Callum Doyle and Dan Neil at various points last season.

With that in mind, I think Tony Mowbray has to play a smart hand, and I’m confident he’ll do exactly that. He’ll be able to spot the signs that a player might be flagging, and undue risks won’t be taken, even if we lose a game or two in the process.

Our squad is a fraction short in key areas, but with the likes of Jay Matete, as an example, coming into good form, we do have the option of resting and rotating certain frontline players when necessary. In addition, the likes of Daniel Ballard, Ross Stewart and Dennis Cirkin are well hopefully on the road to recovery too, which will give us some all-important depth further down the track.

For the likes of Amad Diallo, Edouard Michut, and Abdoullah Ba, the coming month will be crucial to their development.

They’ll all be desperate to stake a claim for selection (especially so in Michut’s case, after his red card against Middlesbrough) and when their time comes, they need to be ready to slot in and pick up the baton from whichever players they happen to be replacing.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Paddy Hayes says…

Strength in depth was certainly a concern in the build-up to the season, so nine games in a little over a month without our most prolific striker would undoubtedly have filled the vast majority of fans with dread.

However, following the games at both Watford and Reading, the level of talent we have, both in the starting eleven and on the bench, is unquestionable. We are fortunate to have an array of versatile players at our disposal who can slot in and do a job in several positions, as well as players who can come off the bench and turn the tide of a game.

Not only are we in good form, but the squad cohesion and will to fight for every ball and point has been irrepressible.

As an additional incentive, with the World Cup break on the horizon, many of the squad will be relishing the run of matches before a lengthy, and hopefully deserved rest.

Even with Lee Johnson’s relentless flogging of our young players last season, we didn’t notice too much of a drop-off until January, so by the same logic, this intense period could arguably help our momentum rather than hinder it.

With the exceptions of Dan Neil, Anthony Patterson, and Jack Clarke, our youngsters’ minutes have been relatively sporadic and the demands placed on them have been minimal and largely via cameo appearances. With that in mind, they will surely have plenty left in the tank for the next five weeks.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

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