Beaming debutant Tommy Robson believes fellow academy products Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford have opened the door for the club’s youngsters.
Left-back Robson enjoyed an excellent Sunderland bow in yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Watford after he was one of three members of the Under-21 squad handed their first Premier League appearance by Sam Allardyce, with Rees Greenwood and George Honeyman also given a chance in the dead rubber at the end of the campaign.
Robson has been in and around the first-team squad for the past 18 months, yet, with Sunderland constantly fighting against Premier League relegation, the 20-year-old has had to wait for his big opportunity.
But after England Under-21 pair Watmore and Pickford were handed their Sunderland debuts earlier this season, Stanley-born Robson says there is a more open-minded approach to the club’s homegrown products under Allardyce.
Robson said: “It’s definitely helped to see Duncan and Jordan getting into the first-team.
“A couple of years ago, no-one was getting a chance, but now there’s a lot more of us training with them.
“A lot of players are making their debuts in the Premier League at 22-23, so I’ve still got a lot of years ahead of me.
“For a relegation battle, you need experience, but I’m hoping that next season is not going to be the same.
“I don’t think it will be. The way we’ve ended the season, I think with a couple more signings, we can be a really good team next year.”
The presence of former U21 coaching pair Robbie Stockdale and Paul Bracewell alongside Allardyce has helped the cause of the club’s youngsters, several of which have trained with the first-team over recent months.
Honeyman, Greenwood and Robson have regularly trained among Allardyce’s men, with the latter hoping he remains in the first-team picture next season.
“I’ve been training with the first-team for a while and I’m learning a lot from Robbie and Brace,” said Robson.
“Hopefully I can keep improving and we’ll see where I end up.
“I’m going to enjoy the next two weeks and then work hard before I come back at the start of the season.
“We’ll see what happens.
“I just want to be ready for the start of the season and then it’s up to the manager.”
Robson admits he was fraught with anxiety after being told on Saturday that he would be starting at Vicarage Road, yet he showed few signs of nerves with his performance.
He contributed to a positive Sunderland display, which saw two goals debatably ruled out for offside, along with the hosts being awarded a controversial penalty.
“I got told on Saturday morning and there was a mix of excitement and nerves. It wasn’t a nice feeling!” he added.
“(When I got out there) I just cut everything out and I felt fine.
“I enjoyed it and words can’t describe how I’m feeling. It’s a dream.
“I thought we deserved to win the game. I think we had two goals which weren’t offside and I don’t think it was a penalty.”