MIKE DODDS expects Matty Young to be challenging for a first-team goalkeeping spot at Sunderland next season – and claims the teenager has all the attributes needed to follow in the footsteps of Jordan Pickford and Anthony Patterson as the club’s next homegrown shot-stopper.

Young will play the final game of his loan spell at Darlington on Saturday, and has proved a revelation since getting the chance to showcase his qualities at National League North level when he joined Quakers in February.

His goalkeeping abilities have been a key factor in Darlington’s successful survival push in the last couple of months – ten of his 13 matches have resulted in a victory – and despite only playing for a third of the campaign, he was named as Quakers’ Young Player of the Year at the weekend.

Clearly, it is a major leap from the sixth tier of the English game to the Championship, and given that he only turned 17 in November, Young remains at an extremely formative stage of his development.

Dodds has been hugely impressed with his rate of progress in the last couple of years though, and expects the England Under-19 international to be involved with Sunderland during pre-season, when he will be given a chance to stake a claim for a first-team spot on Wearside next term.

“Can Matty (Young) come back and challenge for a first-team goalkeeping spot next season? Yeah, why not,” said Sunderland’s interim head coach. “Chris Rigg is a first-year scholar, and I’ve played him against Southampton, Leicester and Leeds this season.

“I know people might say that the goalkeeping position is a bit different, but the ball is always in the player’s court. If he comes back and is unbelievable, then one thing that this football club has shown is that under this model and this ownership, they will give young players opportunities and will not be scared of that.

“If he comes back, and he’s better than the current number one, whether that be Patto (Anthony Patterson) or whoever, then he’ll get an opportunity to play. If that opportunity is not there, then maybe it’ll be a case of looking at another loan.

“I understand the argument that goalkeepers can be hard debuts to give just because of the nature of the position or the pitch. But if you’re asking me from a personal perspective, then if I felt Matty was ready, psychologically and mentally to play at the Stadium of Light as a 17-year-old or 18-year-old, I wouldn’t have any qualms at all about playing him.

The Northern Echo: Matty Young has impressed during his loan spell with DarlingtonMatty Young has impressed during his loan spell with Darlington (Image: Dave Arrowsmith)

“The ball’s in his court. It depends on how good he is when he comes back in the summer, but he’s a wonderful player, and I think Matty Young has got a real chance. I think he could go all the way to the top, but like all young players, that’ll ultimately be dependent on how he manages his head.”

While Young’s loan spell away from Wearside could not have gone any better, a number of Sunderland’s other loanees have not had such a successful experience in the second half of the season.

Nectar Triantis has made seven league starts with Hibernian, but Eliezer Mayenda has been restricted to just two Scottish Premier League substitute appearances and a couple of outings in the Scottish FA Cup during his stint north of the border.

Jewison Bennette has not kicked a ball for Aris Salonika since mid-February, Jack Diamond has been unable to hold down a regular starting spot with League One basement boys Carlisle United and Jay Matete is already back in the North-East after his loan spell at Oxford United was cut short because of injury.

Dodds expects all of Sunderland’s loanees to have gained something from the experience of being elsewhere, even if things have not been going to plan on the pitch. But he also accepts the club will have to make a decision on whether to cut their losses with some of their fringe performers this summer.

“Sometimes, with the loans, going and experiencing a different environment and not doing well can still be a positive,” he said. “It’s not always about a player going somewhere and scoring loads of goals and doing really well, and you automatically thinking ‘They’re the one’ when they come back. Sometimes, going out, learning things, thinking, ‘Okay, I need to be better at this’ and then having that reflection time can be really important for a loan player.


“Some of them have gone and played regularly, some of them have been more in and out, but even for the in and out ones, I think they’ll have had some really important experiences. All the ones that have gone out are young players. They’ll all come back in the summer, and they’ll all have an opportunity to show us that they’ve got a case for being in the squad or the team.

“If they have, great, we keep them in and they become a first-team player. If they haven’t, then there’s two routes for them. I mean this respectfully, but you then either move them on because the club want to progress and get better in that position, or you loan them out again and say, ‘Right, you’re missing in these areas, so you need to go and get game time’.”