What do Josh Maja, Sam Greenwood, Bali Mumba, Luke Hewitson, Morten Spencer, Joe Hugill and Logan Pye all have in common?
Over the last few years, Sunderland supporters have become accustomed to seeing some of their best young products picked up by bigger and better teams in England and on the continent.
It was one of Stewart Donald’s biggest criticisms as an owner. He neglected the club’s youth products and instead, chose to spend rather large sums of money on first team recruitment. With the club in need of bouncing back quickly to the Championship and then the Premier League, it was a do-or-die attitude.
He spent £4m on Will Grigg after he lost Maja, a sum of money that he would have done better to throw into a new contract for Sunderland’s lost academy product.
Instead, Maja ended up at Bordeaux and is now scoring goals for Fulham in the Premier League. Had some of these young talented individuals stuck around, they could have played a role in getting the Black Cats back to where they want to be.
Sunderland’s academy has understandably suffered and last season they failed to win a single game. It was a campaign for their young starlets that just about summed up the diabolical straits in which the club found itself.
There is a rejuvenation happening at the moment, however. Lee Johnson has taken the club to fourth in League One and has also guided them to a Papa John’s Trophy final.
Now under the proud ownership of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, there is a sense of positivity. He has already spoken a strong game about the academy, planning to completely revamp it.
He said: “I look forward to supporting our new academy leadership group as we strive to deliver a best-in-class youth system with a clear talent pathway through to the senior squad.”
Unfortunately, he is set to repeat one of Donald’s biggest mistakes pretty instantly. He may have desires to make the academy stronger but one of their best young talents could leave in the not-too-distant future.
That’s because Mitchell Curry is set to join David Beckham’s MLS franchise Inter Miami.
The striker has only been at the club for half a season after signing last summer from Middlesbrough but, after being handed a one-year deal at the Stadium of Light, he is in danger of swiftly leaving.
He hasn’t played since December but his record for the under-23s has been nothing short of excellent. The 21-year-old has played ten times in Premier League 2 this term, finding the back of the net on seven occasions.
Evidently, he is lethal in front of goal and has bags of potential. Like Hugill and Maja before him, he is capable of beating the goalkeeper with great regularity.
With just one appearance in the Mackems’ first team, it wouldn’t be a disastrous blow to their ambitions to lose him to MLS. That being said, given Louis-Dreyfus wants to provide better support to the youth system, this isn’t the best of starts.
Curry is clearly a talented player judging by his underage form, Sunderland will have to hope he doesn’t turn out to be another ‘one that goy away’ like Maja.