When Kyril Louis-Dreyfus walked through the door as Sunderland’s proud new owner, there was a huge sigh of relief from many supporters.
After all, Stewart Donald’s time at the club was marked with overspending and, ultimately, a failure to get promoted.
It was the perfect Christmas present for the Mackems, as Louis-Dreyfus was announced late on 24th December.
Since he entered the Stadium of Light, he has had some very clear policies. One of them has been to improve the club’s academy and the pathway to senior level.
With the likes of Sam Greenwood, Bali Mumba and Joe Hugill all exiting the northeast in recent years, it’s led to an unhealthy academy. The under-23s didn’t win a single game last term, for instance.
However, we are already seeing the fruits of the new owner’s labour. In the Papa John’s Trophy final, young talents Dan Neil, Benji Kimpioka, Jack Diamond and Ollie Younger all appeared on the bench.
Diamond has received plenty of minutes this term but we believe Younger is now ready for a few more opportunities.
The 21-year-old played three times during the Black Cats’ run to Wembley in the EFL Trophy and has recently earned his league debut. That came in a 2-0 win over Rochdale, a match where Younger didn’t really put a foot wrong.
Traditionally a centre-half, the academy gem played at right-back on that occasion. Younger didn’t look out of place, winning 50% of his defensive duels and completing 80% of his passes. The defender also helped his side to record a clean sheet.
Speaking before that game, Lee Johnson waxed lyrical about the youngster, saying: “I do trust Ollie Younger, I think he is a great kid.
“I haven’t seen him enough in games yet to know whether he can handle that situation, but as a personality and in terms of his performances in training, he has been really impressive.”
That starts with the clash against Bristol Rovers on Saturday. They currently sit in the relegation zone, so on paper it’s a good match in which to trust Younger.