Sunderland coach delivers Corry Evans verdict and explains Timothee Pembele and Pierre Ekwah U21s decisions

Sunderland's under-21s side were beaten 3-2 by Newcastle at the Academy of Light as several first-team players started for the young Black Cats.
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Sunderland’s under-21s boss Graeme Murty says the club’s young players should learn from captain Corry Evans after the midfielder played 45 minutes for the young Black Cats.

Evans has been sidelined for over a year after suffering an ACL injury, but was one of few positives as the under-21s were beaten 3-2 by Newcastle at the Academy of Light. The 33-year-old was composed in possession and scored a stunning equaliser to draw Sunderland level at 1-1 in the first half, before being replaced at the interval.

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When asked about Evans’ return from injury and influence on the group, Murty, who was critical of his side’s overall performance, told the Echo: “It’s brilliant. He’s a proper person and a good athlete. He lives right and he works right and his habits daily are top draw. For him as a role model for young players, he’s been top for them. They need to absorb that to see what it takes everyday to have a proper career and make sure they learn from it.

“As I’ve said to them, it’s no good just observing. They have to partake in the game and participate, and I don’t think enough participated mentally for long enough.”

Evans wasn’t the only first-team player who started against Newcastle, with Bradley Dack and Pierre Ekwah playing 60 minutes, while Mason Burstow, Timothee Pembele and goalkeeper Nathan Bishop completed the full match.

Asked about the involvement of first-team players, Murty replied: “Minutes in the task, we need people to be sharp and ready to go and compete for first-team places, so we’re a willing vehicle for that. We give them big areas to work on in the proper intensity of a match and they need to make sure they’re there in front of the manager.

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“They need to get in front of the manager’s eyes, really impress him so they can be part of the team. I’ve said to them, ‘don’t worry about us, make sure you get what you need in the game.’ 

“Corry needed 45 minutes, the goal is a bonus and the smile on his face actually makes up for a long hard road, it’s just the first step he’s taken. We’re pleased he got through it and we’ll make sure that hopefully he’s ready to go again soon.”