SAFC Under-18 Lead Coach Adam Asghar has delivered an update on his side, who with two games remaining in the U18 Premier League remain in a hugely exciting title race.
The young Lads have claimed six wins in a row to stay within touching distance of Manchester City by a point with two games to play – including Saturday’s huge meeting between the two in the North West (KO 1pm).
Last Saturday saw Asghar’s team run out 4-1 winners over Everton, a display which pleased the Lead Coach as we stay within the championship running.
“We were really pleased with the performance against Everton, who made things difficult for us in the opening stages,” Asghar said.
“I thought, though, that for the rest of the game we were brilliant, played some beautiful football and locked them in their half.
“We scored four really good goals, and it felt like a culmination of all the good things we’ve done this year coming to fruition.”
The Northern section of the league table is finely poised, with City leading the way on 54 points and needing a win against the Lads to get over the line, having won all 10 of their home fixtures so far. However, a Sunderland win in Manchester would see us leapfrog our opponents and head into next weekend’s finale against Manchester United two points clear at the top. A draw keeps matters the same heading into our last game.
The teams played out a 1-1 draw at the Academy of Light back in November.
“The league table doesn’t lie – it’s the two best teams in the division by a distance this season,” declared Asghar.
“We’re expecting a high-quality game of football, with two teams who play an exciting attacking style. We had a really good game with Manchester City here before Christmas, so we’re expecting a tough test.
“There’s a little bit of pressure on the players in terms of expectancy, and I might sound like a broken record, but if we bring the best version of ourselves, then I’m sure we’re a match for anyone in this league.”
The excitement for the game is palpable, with the team eager to get out there and put in a performance to be proud of.
“We always respect the opposition and look at what strengths and weaknesses they have, and that’s the case for any opponent.
“For us now, it’s just a case that we can’t wait for the game to come. It’s a brilliant test, and the boys deserve this opportunity to be at the top end of the league challenging.
“That’s credit to them for their consistency, and we’re just looking forward to trying to perform at our best.”
Asghar then praised the impact of several of the Club’s scholars who have regularly featured at Under-21 level this season, as well as forcing their way to the fringes of the first-team setup.
Tommy Watson, just 17, made his senior debut late on in Tuesday night’s Sky Bet Championship draw with Huddersfield Town at the Stadium of Light, reinforcing the effectiveness of the Sunderland pathway.
He is likely to feature at Man City with the youngsters, before meeting the first-team squad for Sunday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion.
“First of all, with the boys that have played in the U21s, it’s credit to the pathway we have here at the Club. You always want to push your higher-performing players into that environment as quickly as possible.
“The fact they’ve gone to that level and performed is really pleased and will serve them well for the future.
“With regards to Tommy, it’s a wonderful moment for himself, his family and everyone at the Academy who has been involved in his development so far. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a small part of it for the past six months. It really rings true how clear the pathway is here at Sunderland – the fact Tommy can play for the U18s on a Saturday and then gets called into the first-team game on the Tuesday is just fantastic.”
To watch a live stream of our crucial U18 clash at Manchester City on Saturday at 1pm, click here.