In recent years, Sunderland have had the unfortunate experience of seeing a number of their academy stars leave the Stadium of Light in search of first-team football away from the Black Cats.
You can hardly blame them, however, when you consider the rather questionable ownership of Stewart Donald.
The club’s U23 side failed to win a single game last season but that’s no surprise after who left. Sam Greenwood, now of Leeds, departed for Arsenal in 2018 and he was then followed in controversial circumstances by Josh Maja a year later.
The Fulham striker wasn’t the last, however. Bali Mumba, Joe Hugill, Luke Hewitson, Morten Spencer and Logan Pye have all walked through the exit door. They have now also been joined by Mitchell Curry who has gone to Inter Miami.
This has been a trend before Maja and co even burst onto the scene. Two high profile examples, Jordan Pickford left for Everton and Jordan Henderson went to Liverpool.
The midfielder departed in 2011 for a fee of around £16m and since then, his career has taken off in some style.
Henderson wasn’t a fan favourite at Anfield initially but he is now one of their standout players, an individual who goes under the radar on a regular basis.
After exiting the Stadium of Light ten years ago, he admitted it was hard to leave his boyhood club but the decision to move to Merseyside has undoubtedly been vindicated.
Considering his immense career trajectory, it’s baffling to think he was almost let go when he was still a trainee. Before making his breakthrough under Roy Keane, he could have been left in the doldrums somewhere.
Former Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia once told the Mirror: “There was one professional contract still to be handed out, and it was a straight choice between three of the academy lads.”
Sbragia continued: “The night before the decision had to be made, it still hadn’t been decided. As I left for home, I didn’t have a clue which one would get the nod. When I came back in the following day, Jordan had been chosen.”
It’s fairly evident why; he had plenty of desirable attributes. He wasn’t able to show them in the north-east for long but he has demonstrated them on plentiful occasions for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Henderson has now made 392 appearances for the Premier League outfit and while his boyhood club Sunderland have fallen down the football pyramid, Liverpool have become one of the best in the world.
With the 30-year-old as captain, he has won the Premier League, the Champions League and the Club World Cup.
He is an FWA Premier League Player of the Year winner and is one of the first names on the team sheet for England. Sunderland knew they had a gem but it’s unlikely they will have envisaged his career panning out quite as it has.
Henderson’s transfer value soared to £31.5m, an increase of £15.5m in the year the Reds ran rampant in Europe. He is a shining example to everyone at Anfield and now has to go down as one of the most consistent players in the top-flight.
Speaking about the Liverpool star in 2018, Gary Neville commented on the way he succeeded Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park:
“Think about four years ago when Liverpool nearly won the league under Brendan Rodgers, he was a box-to-box midfield player and Steven Gerrard was sitting in there. Now he has evolved his game, he’s matured.”
Neville continued: “He wants to learn all the time, he works hard, he’s conscientious, he’s a manager’s dream.”
One of Sunderland’s favourite sons, he has quickly become a Premier League stalwart. Henderson is a shining example to everyone in the north east.