Once all is said and done, it will be difficult to call Stewart Donald’s reign at Sunderland a success.
Of course, they could still achieve promotion with the businessman enjoying a minority stake in the club, but if they do go up now, it’ll be up to Juan Sartori and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to take the plaudits.
It’s unsurprising that it’s ending like this. After all, he has done little to prove supporters in the north-east that he deserves their support.
Donald is in charge of a glistening list of operations and the club’s facilities best every single team in the division – that involves the academy too.
The facilities at the Academy of Light are Premier League quality but all too often, especially under the Donald era, we’ve seen their best young prospects up sticks and leave.
From the more experienced George Honeyman to the supremely talented Josh Maja and Joel Asoro, they have all departed.
But we’ve also seen players yet to make their first-team breakthroughs looking for new clubs because of a lack of progress at Sunderland. It’s a long list of names, one that includes Luca Stephenson, Sam Greenwood, Luke Hewitson, Morten Spencer, Joe Hugill and Logan Pye.
Clearly, something hasn’t quite clicked at academy level.
However, there are now attempts to strengthen it and they look like they’ll be doing it in impressive style by bringing a Premier League academy quality player to their club.
That’s because this week, Sunderland handed Rayan Clarke his first minutes for their U23 team. The teenager was released by Tottenham in the summer and has been looking for a club ever since.
A man with one assist to his name in Premier League 2 already this season, he then took his goal contributions to two goals in two games by netting from the bench for the Black Cats’ academy side on Monday.
Coincidentally, he outshone a certain Aiden McGeady, someone he replaced just after the hour mark after the Irishman had failed to score.
But who does Clarke remind us most of? Well, it has to be Asoro, someone who departed the Stadium of Light for Swansea City in 2018.
The talented attacker can play all across the front line just like Clarke, with both proving they are incredibly valuable assets in terms of their versatility. The duo are also tricky livewires capable of beating their man with ingenuity and trickery.
Despite playing more games out wide, it’s the Sunderland trialist who has a better record as a youth player though.
In 23 competitive league outings for Sunderland’s academy, Asoro found the back of the net on just three occasions. Clarke, however, has registered six goals in 29 appearances for Spurs’ U18 side.
Throughout youth level, the 19-year-old has been impressive and at Sunderland, he’d have a fantastic chance of making a first-team breakthrough if he pens terms.
Who knows, he could well have a greater chance of succeeding in the north-east than Asoro, someone who was evidently left frustrated by the tired regime.
If there is one pro to still being in League One, it’s that academy products have a greater chance of minutes than they did when Sunderland was a Premier League side.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s prospective new owner is already on the verge of a HUGE mistake…
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