Sunderland manager Lee Johnson is excited about his two newest recruits after their performance in last night’s League Cup win at Blackpool.
Frederik Alves and Niall Huggins both joined the club on loan this month from Premier League sides West Ham and Leeds United respectively.
The defensive duo didn’t have to wait long to get their taste of the action either, as they were both named in last night’s starting eleven for the Black Cats cup tie at Bloomfield Road.
It was a difficult start for the young pair as the Tangerines took the lead after just nine minutes. Sunderland’s resolve shone through, though, with the League One side scoring in injury time to come out 3-2 winners and book their place in the third round.
Lee Johnson spoke about the defensive loanees after the result and how he thought they coped during the match.
“I thought Frederik found out the speed early, there were a couple of times he got caught,” Johnson said, as reported by the Sunderland Echo.
“But in the second half he read the game really well, he gave himself that extra yard.
“He is a quick player and sometimes quick players trust their recovery, but you have to defend well and defend early.
“It was probably the quickest tempo game he has ever played in and it was a good learning process for him.”
It was clear from early on that Alves had to get up to speed with the tempo of the match and he did as the game went on, making some very important defensive contributions early in the second half.
Huggins displayed his impressive ability to drive forward in possession throughout the match, an attribute that, although excites Johnson, the boss fears may cause him to burn out too soon.
“Niall like a weasel isn’t he? He scampers forward! At times he has to manage his tank a little bit though,” Johnson added.
“I love his enthusiasm, but sometimes young players burn their energy a little bit too much.
“He will grow into it, he is so enthusiastic whether he is having a conversation or playing a football match, his enthusiasm is infectious.”
Sunderland were very strong defensively last season, conceding the third lowest number of goals  in the league, which is something Johnson will want to replicate this term.
The addition of central defender Alves is a great move by Johnson. Alves will help add that extra depth to the squad and if he is to repeat his second half performance from last night’s match in the future, it will only provide Johnson with the confidence that he has added a great player to his ranks.
Sunderland have lost a few key figures from last season in this window. Left-back Callum Mcfadzean being one of them. The Englishman played in more than half of the team’s games last season, so it was important for Johnson to bring a player who can operate this role and Huggins already looks like a fantastic replacement.
Johnson expects both players to improve significantly and there’s no doubt, given the game time, they will do that very quickly in this division.
This is the Black Cats fourth successive season in the third tier and as well as the club agreeing new deals with key players Luke O’Nien and Aiden McGeady, the two young loanees may just be the difference in Sunderland finally getting that promotion their fans so desperately crave.