Opinion: Sunderland's squad may be paper thin, but Moyes' refusal to test youth is alarmingly stubborn

Opinion: Sunderland's squad may be paper thin, but Moyes' refusal to test youth is alarmingly stubborn

Sunderland slumped to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Stoke City this afternoon as the subs watched on - so why weren't they used?

jack-mcgraghan
Jack McGraghan

Sunderland fans could be forgiven for thinking they were about to see some form of improvement after their 2-2 draw with Liverpool just two weeks ago, but an entirely forgettable stalemate against Burnley and an abject home defeat to Stoke City later means that dark clouds are suddenly looming over Wearside once more.

Unfortunate injury situation leaves Black Cats with youthful bench

You would struggle to pick out one player in a red and white shirt who had even a decent game today barring the goalscorer Jermain Defoe, who must be growing increasingly frustrated with his team-mates who at times are seemingly incapable of completing even the simplest of passes.

The groan that rang out around the Stadium of Light when Jason Denayer sent an attempted five yard pass straight out of play for a throw-in has become all too familiar this season, and today was no different.

However, the main point that many fans and pundits alike have taken from this afternoon's proceedings is that David Moyes simply does not trust the youngsters he has at his disposal.

With the Black Cats' squad ravaged by injuries to several first-team players it has left the bench needing to be filled largely with players from the club's Under-23 squad.

Today Josh Maja, Joel Asoro, George Honeyman and Elliot Embleton joined Mika, Billy Jones and Javier Manquillo in the dugout and after seeing their team-mates go 3-0 down inside a horrific opening 34 minutes they will have perhaps been hoping their manager would throw them on with nothing to lose.

That was not to be the case though, and today's match became the first time Sunderland have not made a single substitution in a Premier League fixture since September 2001.

Youngsters have shown in the past that they can offer something different

Moyes' flat-out refusal to attempt to change the game with an influx of energy from the bench comes off as nothing but an attempt to call out to Ellis Short in the hopes the Texan will suddenly change his mind and supply his manager with substantial funds to improve the squad.

Realistically speaking however, this will not happen. So it is instead left for fans to ask why Moyes did not change the setup or line-up of his team with the Wearsiders three goals down in the first-half.

When queried as to why he made no changes, Moyes said that he "didn’t have anything on the bench that offered more than was out there" in a clear indication that he believes his youth players either aren't ready for the Premier League or simply aren't good enough.

But how will we ever find out if those players are cut-out for the top-flight if they are never given a chance to prove themselves? With Asoro in particular impressing in pre-season, you would have had him down as a player to perhaps break into the first-team over the course of the season and invigorate his team-mates, who lacked any form of drive over 90 minutes this afternoon.

As previously unknown players such as Duncan Watmore and the much-maligned James McClean have shown in the past, giving youth a chance can pay dividends even if it is simply as an impact player to add an extra dimension for the final 20 minutes or so.

McClean's introduction at home against Blackburn in 2011 with Sunderland 1-0 down showed what can happen, as the Irishman used his pace and the fact that he was an unknown quantity to his advantage to fire up the crowd and his team-mates for the final 15 minutes.

Two goals came in the final six minutes and Martin O'Neill won his first match as Sunderland boss as a result, whilst McClean would go on to become a regular starter in what was probably the best form of his career so far.

With funds ranging from limited to non-existent in the January window for Moyes and his first-team injuries unlikely to return anytime soon, surely he will have to turn to the youth at his disposal in the near future.

Tuesday evening in the FA Cup provides the perfect opportunity for Moyes to at least give one of the youngsters a chance, as it would be a huge surprise to see the Scot risk even more of his key players by playing them all twice inside four days.

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