ROBBIE Stockdale has praised the attitude of Adam Johnson and company after Sunderland’s fringe players got a run-out for the Under-21s.
New Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat watched Johnson, Will Buckley, Sebastian Coates and Vito Mannone all gain much-needed match practice yesterday, as they helped the Black Cats youngsters to a 3-2 victory over Southampton.
The class of Johnson – starting his first game in more than a month – shone through, while Buckley also impressed after recovering from a knee injury.
But development coach Stockdale says the most encouraging aspect was that the quartet were hungry to impress, rather than seeing the game as a chore.
“I thought they were all very good, really professional in their attitude,” he said.
“When it’s the odd player coming down, as long as they come down with the right attitude, it’s fantastic.
“I can’t stress how much the players wanted to play yesterday and had that attitude.
“We’ve played against teams where I’ve seen the other coach being a bit frustrated with some of the seniors dropping down.
“And I don’t think I’m saying something wrong when I say we’ve had that in the past here.
“But that’s not the culture we create in the 21s. We are a hard-working team.
“Adam was a constant threat and Will was really positive as well.”
The presence of those first-teamers, along with constant menace Duncan Watmore, saw Sunderland race into three-goal lead by the interval.
However, the second half became needlessly nervy, with Southampton almost grabbing a share of the spoils after a number of mistakes from defensive substitute Tom McNamee.
“In the first half, we were comfortable and should have scored more goals to be honest,” added Stockdale.
“We spoke at half-time about being professional and not letting them off the hook - we had them on the ropes.
“But as soon as you give a team a little bit of confidence, that grows and the anxiety builds in our team.
“At the end, you’re thinking they’re going to get an equaliser.”