Sunderland are trophy winners for the first time in 48 years. That is well and truly a sentence to savour.
With the Mackems now sitting third in League One as well, there are plenty of reasons to be positive and hopeful for the future.
Lee Johnson has led a fantastic revival in the north-east and with Kyril Louis-Dreyfus now the club’s owner, negativity and bad vibes have been eradicated.
The Frenchman already has a trophy to his name and more could follow suit if they earn promotion.
That is the number one priority at Sunderland right now but another is to blood young talent. Louis-Dreyfus has reshaped the academy structure and a number of young players have been handed trials at the club.
He is desperate to improve the academy and who can blame him? The Black Cats’ U23 side didn’t win a single game last term.
We were given a glimpse into the future just by looking at Sunderland’s bench on Sunday at Wembley. They may have a number of injuries but it was pleasant to see the likes of Dan Neil, Ollie Younger, Jack Diamond and Benji Kimpioka all among the substitutes.
Though, one name who wasn’t but deserves a run out in the not too distant future is Josh Hawkes. The 21-year-old was signed from Hartlepool a few months ago but hasn’t seen a great deal of senior action since.
Hawkes was on the bench for the match against Rochdale a few weeks ago and did receive minutes during their successful EFL Trophy run. That being said, despite injuries, he hasn’t been able to sufficiently force his way into Johnson’s plans.
Judging by his form for the club’s U23 side, that should change. The attacking midfielder, who can also play on the wing, has been a breath of fresh air to Elliott Dickman’s team.
He has scored six goals and registered three assists in 13 Premier League 2 outings. Hawkes has long been a goal-scoring midfielder and in 2018/19, hit the back of the net on nine occasions for Hartlepool in the National League.
Speaking about his qualities to Sunderland blog Roker Report, Hartlepool expert Dan Patton said: “Josh is a player with clear ability, which was most evident in his first season with the club after scoring nine goals from midfield.”
Patton continued: “His best position is an attacking midfield role, however he can also play in a wide attacking role if needed. He is a player that won’t shy away from shooting, no matter the distance, and brings a real energy into the midfield.”
Possessing a midfielder who can make late runs into the penalty and score goals is a fantastic attribute to have in your team. Certainly, with qualities like that, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Johnson soon called on him.
After all, Diamond’s shoddy performance against Accrington on Wednesday evening will have him looking over his shoulder. The youngster managed just three passes and 18 touches of the ball before being dragged off at half time in their 2-0 win.
The future may well be bright for Diamond, but Hawkes is someone who could rival him for a place in the senior side.