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Sunderland v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship

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Sunderland’s young talents need our support, so let’s get behind them!

The likes of Abdoullah Ba and Adil Aouchiche have had stop-start careers in red and white so far, but as Mark Wood writes, they’ve all got the potential to make a huge impact for us

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough, there were a number of comments on Sunderland social media, the consensus of which seemed to be that Abdoullah Ba was the villain of the day.

To anyone who saw it, you can’t escape the fact that he made a hash of a golden chance set up by Jack Clarke right in front of goal at the Riverside.

That moment, along with a wasted opportunity earlier when he was played through wide on the right, had a lot of fans clamouring for the reinstatement of Patrick Roberts as soon as he’s fit enough to start a game.

However, although he fluffed his lines at two key moments, I’ll stick my neck out and say that I thought Ba had a decent game on Sunday.

He ran at the Middlesbrough defence throughout and was constantly involved in our build up play down the right flank in the first half, until the whole team was overwhelmed for a long stretch after the break.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As for that missed opportunity, it felt like he either tried to think when he needed to use his instinct and/or he had his eyes locked on the defender on the line rather than looking at the space to shoot into, and therefore found himself caught in a moment of indecision.

This was only one week on from his performance against Stoke, when everyone was singing his praises after a game in which he scored and created chances, but those who run him down should remember that he only turned twenty last summer and that he’s still inexperienced.

Inconsistency in performances and decision making are part and parcel of the development of young players, and the likes of Ba could really do with our support. It’s also worth pointing out that he’s chalked up more goals and assists this season than Roberts.

In contrast, it’s only a couple of weeks since Adil Aouchiche had his own nightmare after coming on during our 2-1 defeat to Ipswich.

After giving away a foul which led to a free kick from which Ipswich scored, he also missed a good chance to score himself. After the game, Michael Beale seemed to throw him under the bus with his post-match comments, and he was also subjected to the ire of Sunderland fans on social media.

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

Similar to Ba, Aouchiche only turned twenty one last summer and has only started four games in a red and white shirt.

It’s only a couple of months since our own fans were singing his praises based on what we’d seen of him, and he didn’t become a bad player because of one poor substitute appearance.

I was interested to see what team Beale would put out for the Hull City game, because it was only nine months ago that another one of our other young and inexperienced players endured his own nightmare substitute appearance against the Tigers.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On that occasion, Pierre Ekwah gave away a last-minute penalty during the 4-4 home draw, and it was Tony Mowbray who threw him under the bus somewhat in his post-match interview.

However, what Mowbray did next showed real courage as he started Ekwah against Cardiff, and we were ultimately rewarded with improved performances until the end of the season, which helped us secure a playoff spot.

In Aouchiche’s case, he didn’t even get off the bench in the next game and I’m not suggesting that Beale should’ve ‘done a Mowbray’ and started him, but I hope he doesn’t overlook him during the next few weeks, either.

Fans coming down hard on any player guilty of a poor individual performance regardless of age isn’t new. It’s fact, and it’s always been that way at just about any football club.

I can remember Gary Owers, then aged eighteen, in his first season of senior football back in 1988, talking about how the crowd at Roker Park would single him out and get on his back, and that was as part of a successful, promotion-winning team.

Sunderland v Everton Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images

Similarly, the same thing has happened to many other young players over the years.

From Nick Pickering in the 1980’s to Michael Gray in the 1990’s after missing that penalty at Wembley, and more recently George Honeyman, who was the subject of the question ‘Is George Honeyman Sunderland’s worst player ever?’ on social media not long before he suddenly left to join Hull.

The difference between what the older lads and players of the modern era have to contend with is that after a bad day at the office on a Saturday afternoon, they could go home, put it behind them, train during the week and rebuild their confidence before the next game.

Nowadays, social media is omnipresent wherever they look, and it can be a lot more vicious.

Sunderland have a squad full of exciting, young and in many cases raw players. It bodes well for the future when we’ve already seen what they’re capable of, but they need our patience and support for the long haul.


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