Sunderland return to competitive action on Wednesday night as they host Manchester United’s under-23 side at the Stadium of Light in the EFL Trophy.
The Black Cats won their opening match in the group last time out, beating fellow League One outfit Lincoln 2-1 away from home last week. Meanwhile, United have won one and lost one of their two matches in the competition, with Sunderland able to move above the Red Devils in their group with a win on Wednesday.
One player who Lee Johnson must unleash against the under-23 Premier League side is young forward Stephen Wearne.
The 20-year-old whizz kid made his senior bow against Lincoln as he came off the bench and scored the crucial second goal for the Black Cats. He came on for Ellis Taylor and played out wide on the right, marking his debut with a special goal which will surely live in his memory for a long time.
Speaking after the game, Wearne explained how much the goal meant to him. He said: “I was delighted to make my debut, it was a good team performance and obviously I’m happy to get the goal and with my family being here as well – my mum, my dad, my sister, and girlfriend – it was a special moment. I was delighted to score in front of the fans and it was a great feeling.
“I found out I was going to be in the squad the other day. The U23s had a game on Monday and I was told I was only going to play 45 minutes and then be on the bench on Tuesday. There was a possibility I might come on so I was just raring to go and excited to play and even more happy to get the goal.”
Taylor, who Wearne replaced, endured a difficult night against Lincoln as he lost half of his duels and gave away possession of the ball 11 times from just 28 touches. He also failed with both of his attempted crosses and did not attempt a single dribble, which is why Johnson must now unleash Wearne from the start against Manchester United’s under-23s.
In just 28 minutes, Wearne completed 10 of his 12 attempted passes and scored a goal to showcase his quality in the final third. This shows that he has the quality to be a game-changer for Sunderland, as he was able to find the back of the net at senior level, which means that he could score important goals to help Johnson’s side secure valuable points in the league and the EFL Trophy.
Therefore, the Black Cats boss should select him from the start on Wednesday night to see if he can replicate his Lincoln performance over the course of 90 minutes.