Sam Allardyce wants to give youth a chance at Sunderland
Published 14/05/2016 | 12:06
Sam Allardyce will give Sunderland's brightest young talent the chance to audition for a place in the club's future on Sunday.
The Black Cats won their fight against relegation with victory over Everton in midweek, sparking joyous celebrations that began on the field at the Stadium of Light and continued long into the night.
Most expected the fight for survival to go all the way to the final day of the season but, after picking up 11 points from their last five matches, Sunderland have a free hand when they visit Watford.
And with the intensity dialled down a notch, Allardyce intends to cast his eye over the next generation.
He will remould the squad this summer and wants to know if any of the side that finished second in this year's Barclays Premier League Under-21 table can make the grade.
Striker Duncan Watmore has already graduated to the seniors and could be joined at Vicarage Road by the likes of Jordan Pickford, George Honeyman, Tommy Robson and Rees Greenwood.
"My idea is to play some of our younger players because the 21s have had a great year," he said.
"Some of them need to play in the team on Sunday to see if they can cope at this level, when there's no pressure on in terms of points needed.
"That's not to say we're going there to lie down. I expect these lads to be able to compete at this level and show us there may be a place for them in our squad in the future.
"We need to find more young stars through the academy if we possibly can and the only way I can find out is if I try them in the team, that would be my way forward, to let the lads go out and express themselves.
"That would give me an indication if they are capable of coming in next season."
As Allardyce casts his eye to the future, he does so with one on the past.
While the club's supporters have become used to a merry-go-round of managers in recent years, with Martin O'Neill, Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat all failing to put down roots, that was not always the case.
Peter Reid held the fort between 1995 and 2002 , with two seventh-placed finishes in the top flight the high point of his reign.
"I've got to try and do a Reidy," said Allardyce, who has vowed to break the wearying pattern of relegation battles.
"That man was brilliant for this football club in his time. We're not going to forget the contribution he made.
"This stadium, this training ground is down to Peter Reid. I know (former chairman) Bob Murray built it but it was Peter Reid's dream.
"I've got to try and emulate that man: try to bring that kind of success, try to make it better than it is."