David Moyes can give next Jordan Hendersons and Pickfords a chance from Sunderland production line
Long-time Sunderland youth boss and Black Cats legend Kevin Ball believes David Moyes is a manager ready to reap unprecedented rewards from the club's homegrown production line.
In a week when Jordan Henderson captained England in Slovenia and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford earned a first senior international call-up, Ball is fiercely proud of the junior set-up which nurtured both players.
As well as Pickford, this year has seen Sunderland first-team debuts for Josh Maja, Rees Greenwood, Tommy Robson, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch, with the latter also making his international bow this week for the USA against New Zealand.
And Ball, who was instrumental in the creation and evolution of the Academy of Light, sees Moyes as a man brave enough to trust even more of its products to handle the tough environment of a potential Premier League relegation battle.
“I think you have to look at the situation now at the club,” said Ball.
“Over the years we’ve had a lot of good (Academy) players but the opportunity for them hasn’t necessarily been there, for a number of reasons.
“But with David Moyes, the opportunity is there. He’s saying: ‘If you’re good enough, I’ll give you the chance’ – which as an academy coach, is what I would want to hear.”
And Ball is hopeful that the Sunderland youth system will prove to have equipped those players with the attitude – as with Henderson and Pickford – as well as the ability to succeed.
The former Under-21s boss says talent alone won’t help youngsters reach the top level, and that determination, application and hard work are just as important attributes.
“It is still ultimately down to the player; they need to earn that right regardless of how a situation evolves,” adds Ball.
“Every player comes in (to the Academy) with ability of some sort but it’s then a case of maximising that ability - which both the Jordans did throughout their development.
“The biggest thing of course is if they get that chance they must take it.”
No Wearside youngsters in a generation have done that quite like Henderson and Pickford.
But Ball is as unsurprised as he is impressed by both players’ progress.
“Jordan (Henderson) is very driven and wants to succeed, and even when he does succeed he wants to be the best by working harder and harder,” said the former Black Cats skipper of the first Sunderland-born player to lead England for 141 years.
“He had a difficult time at Liverpool which he met head on, and has shown tremendous character and resilience by always wanting to get better.
“He’s shown that by captaining England, which was a fantastic moment, and it gives everyone involved at the academy a sense of pride.
“Jordan Pickford has earned his call-up through hard work – hard work not just to get into the manager’s plans this season but ever since he came into the academy.
“He’s always wanted to get as high as he can as quick as he can.
“He’s always had a lot of good people supporting him and he got very good experience at the other clubs he went to, and all the managers and support staff he worked with deserve a big pat on the back as well.”