Sunderland youngsters will be full of belief that a first team pathway is present with the likes of Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton setting an example this season.
Lee Johnson has utilised the younger players in his squad very effectively this season with Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin, Niall Huggins, Nathan Broadhead and Leon Dajaku all coming in to freshen up the squad this summer.
It is so far so good for the U23 players looking to carve out a place in the first team but the Black Cats will be keen to continue the supply line of talent from their youth setup.
One player who has flown under the radar some injury issues is 23-year-old centre back Arbenit Xhemajli who returned to the U23 side recently in building up his fitness to fight for a place in the first team.
Johnson also handed 18-year-old winger Ellis Taylor his debut in the first round of the League Cup in August.
Here, then, we take a look at two of Sunderland’s most exciting youngsters, whether a first team chance is on the horizon and what they can bring to the Black Cats…
Brought in from Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax in September 2020 Xhemajli struggled to settle at the Stadium of Light last season. A lot of players need some time to acclimatise to the pace and physicality of English football.
The 23-year-old has a job on the hands to punch his way into the first team picture but with his deal only running until the end of the season Johnson will want to see what he is capable of before making a decision.
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Callum Doyle, Tom Flanagan, Bailey Wright and Frederik Alves all stand in his way, the former and latter are on loan from Premier League clubs, if Sunderland continue their push for automatic promotion Xhemajli should earn an inclusion at some point with Wright’s future with the Black Cats still looking uncertain.
There is not a lot to go off so far with Taylor but the fact that Johnson has handed the 18-year-old two first team starts this season suggests that he is very highly thought of at the club.
He played left back against Port Vale in the League Cup and then right midfield versus Lincoln City in the Football League Trophy, both of which ended with a 2-1 scoreline in favour of Sunderland.
Taylor’s clear versatility and standing in his manager’s plans could make him a useful asset if the team suffer some injuries as the fixtures begin to pile up. Expect to see Taylor in some matchday squads and potentially being introduced from the bench in League One this season.