Sunderland manager Alex Neil picked up his first win in charge of the club at the weekend as his side won 3-0 against Wigan in League One.
The Scotsman has not had the opportunity to bring in players of his own to improve his side, as he joined after the January transfer window had closed, so the summer could be a huge chance for him to shape the team in his image.
However, whilst he could bring in players from other clubs to freshen up his XI, he could also dip into the academy setup to find new talent.
One player who he could unleash in order to save Kristjaan Speakman millions in the summer is young midfielder Stephen Wearne.
The 21-year-old is currently on loan at Torquay, and Neil can unleash him in pre-season ahead of the 2022/23 campaign to bolster his first-team squad. In doing so, he may just prevent the sporting director from needing to splash out money on a new signing in that area of the pitch.
The Sunderland Echo’s Joe Nicholson dubbed him “promising” at the time of the move and journalist Matty Hewitt once praised him as being “really bright”. These quotes suggest that Wearne’s performances at youth level have impressed those in attendance, with that being proven by his introduction into the first-team setup this season.
He made his debut for the senior side in the EFL Trophy this season, making three appearances in the competition and averaging a SofaScore rating of 7.27. Wearne scored twice, created four chances and made six clearances across the three matches (as per SofaScore) and duly earned himself his loan move to Torquay.
Since making the temporary switch to Devon, he has played eight matches in the National League and scored one goal. He has been a regular in the Gulls line-up and proving his quality at the highest level outside of the Football League, suggesting that he could have the potential to come back to Sunderland and make an impact.
This first-team exposure could do wonders for the starlet’s development, and Neil must bring him back into the senior setup for pre-season to assess whether or not the 21-year-old dynamo is ready to make the step up. If Wearne can prove his worth and show that he has what it takes to compete in League One, or hopefully the Championship, then he could save the club millions in the transfer market.