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2020, like the several years that preceded it, was a disaster for Sunderland.
For the second season in a row, they failed to achieve League One promotion and then, to make matters worse, an EFL salary cap was introduced.
The Black Cats have bigger financial muscles than almost all third tier clubs, but now it’s getting harder and harder to flex them.
Therefore, Sunderland only has room for one player over the age of 21 to enter during January. That’s not particularly good news, but luckily, Lee Johnson can make it to the academy.
It is a rejuvenated part of the football club and the under-23s have gone from winning zero games last season to winning five in 2020/21. The academy has been a contentious topic of conversation at Stadium of Light in recent years and to say that Stewart Donald succeeded terribly would be to put things lightly.
It was he who supervised Josh Maja’s departure for Bordeaux, while Joel Asoro also departed for Swansea. There are other academy stars though, from Sam Greenwood and Bali Mumba to Luke Hewitson, Morten Spencer, Joe Hugill, and Logan Pye.
Does Sunderland miss Josh Maja?
Keeping its stars rising hasn’t been a priority in recent years, but under its new ownership, it could be about to change.
That’s because it is expected that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus will aim to promote from within and improve the academy. It’s a strategy that makes perfect sense when you consider that they have Kristjaan Speakman acting as the new soccer director.
He was in charge of the Birmingham City academy when they brought in Demarai Gray, Nathan Redmond and Jude Bellingham, so he’s accomplished a lot at that level already.
In a question and answer session about Sunderland Echo This week, journalist Phil Smith revealed that the academy had been severely “powerless” during Donald’s reign, but that was about to change. He cited that Dreyfus aims to make a significant investment in academia and hopes to appoint someone to manage that part of the business.
This can only be a good thing, especially with Sunderland’s dwindling finances the longer they remain at this level of the soccer pyramid.
It seems that Dreyfus and Speakman are incredibly keen on making up for one of Donald’s biggest negligence and that can only be a good thing.
If they can fix everything, Sunderland might as well start the New Year off with a bang.