Interview: Carlton Fairweather reviews the Under-18s season

After finishing the 2022-23 campaign four points behind title-winners Manchester City, Sunderland Under-18s are going through “a new stage of development” says Lead Coach Carlton Fairweather.


Whilst still searching for a first win this season, Carlton admits the squad are going through a transformation and creating an identity that matches the U21s and first-team.


“We have a very different squad this year, they are certainly a lot younger. We are working with them every day to create a philosophy that matches the older groups. We are seeing improvements each matchday, results may not be there but the performances certainly are.”


The U18 group have lost two and drawn once across all competitions so far and will welcome Manchester United U18s to the Academy of Light at the end of September. Frontman, Trey Ogunsuyi has been called up to international duty with the Belgium development squad and Carlton believes there are good individuals in his side to kick-start the season after the break.


He continued: “They may be younger and inexperienced, but it is a talented group who are willing and determined. We’ve sat and analysed the footage from the first three. It will take the group time to settle down and get used to the expectations. We probably won't see the best of the group till after Christmas but we are moving in the right direction.”


Academy Of Light graduates, Chris Rigg and Zak Johnson both recently made individual strides in the first team and Carlton admits “It is an exciting time to be an Academy player.


“From the recent achievements of our younger lads, you can see there is a clear pathway to follow. With the right attitude and mindset, you can follow the crop who are now featuring for Tony most weeks. I’ve known Riggy and Zak for many years and they have excellently applied themselves and now are reaping the rewards.”


After only losing five league games last season, Carlton has given this year’s group some targets to aim towards to replicate similar success:


“We had a great collective spirit from the players. Lads like Matty Young, Chris Rigg, and Tommy Watson all stepped up and took responsibility. It is up to this year’s group to aspire to achieve the same individual success.”

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