Sunderland: Is the club's youth policy working?
Looking over Danny Graham’s stats it shows Sunderland’s new signing as having wracked up 82 professional goals at his last three teams. However, on the other end of the spectrum the Geordie only mustered a mere 10 goals between the ages of 18 (when he debuted for Middlesbrough) and 22 (when he left the club).
During this time he spent time at Blackpool, Carlisle, Darlington, Derby, and Leeds playing 56 games in total. Now let’s compare that with 22-year-old Ryan Noble, still languishing in the shadows at the Academy of Light, already having spells at Derby, Hartlepool and Graham’s old club, Watford.
Noble’s ratio pales in comparison to the new £5 million man – 19 games, three goals. Take into consideration that Noble has been unfortunate with injuries - he was famously absent from the game against Fulham in 2011 when Steve Bruce had to play midfielder Steed Malbranque up-front due to the likes of Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck and Frazier Campbell all injured and Darren Bent having just exited for Villa; Noble can state his claim for having not made a mark.
But with rumours that the Academy isn’t producing the sort of talent that can cut in the Premier League, and with Martin O’Neill deciding against calling-up a youth team player when the team was short of subs against Bolton, one has to wonder who’s to blame for all of this.
Of course we’ve seen Jack Colback and Jordan Henderson prove exceptions to this, and Martyn Waghorn is finally starting to deliver at Leicester City after a £3 million move in 2010, but in my opinion there’s a lot of talent going to waste. With the club having released a host of youngsters just last week (Adam Reed, Blair Adams, James Armstrong, Roarie Deacon), and with Graham himself having slipped through the ranks when spotted by a Sunderland scout at age 15, it remains to be seen what’s in store for three players who have been talked about as being the future of the team.
Billy Knott, John Egan and Louis Laing are three of the Academy’s top talent; all have represented their country at youth level at youth and U-21 level and all excelled when spending time on loan at Championship and League One clubs.
Unfortunately Egan broke his leg last November while both Laing and Knott have had their fair share on injuries this season. But how much of a chance do they stand of emulating Colback and Henderson when they do return? And what of young Noble, once called the “new Michael Owen?”
If the club aren’t going to keep him on then they need to implement sell-on fees so that they receive something for a player that has the look that he can be something special, given the chance.
Personally, injury barring, I’d like to see these three called-up for first team duty toward the end of the season. Sit them on the bench, and should they be needed, throw them in at the deep end. Let them swim with the sharks of the Premier League, and if they sink, well at least I’ll have peace of mind.
Calling all Sunderland fans: Do you agree with Sarshar? Do you think the youngsters should be given their chance to shine in the top flight or are they simply not up to the job? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.