Sunderland duo extend loan deals until end of the season
Sunderland RCA manager Martin Swales has backed on-loan Sunderland youngsters Connor Slack and Ryan Leonard to help his side improve over the second half of the season.
The Black Cats academy duo joined the Northern League Division One club on work experience loan deals in August – and Swales confirmed that the youngsters will now remain with RCA until the end of the campaign.
It has been a season of contrasting fortunes for Leonard and Slack as the latter has seen his involvement limited by a groin tear.
But winger Leonard has shone during his time in the Northern League and has drawn regular praise for his attitude and ability during his four months at Sunderland LDV Park.
And Swales is hopeful that they can both make a serious impact as his side look to improve on their underwhelming performance so far this season.
He told The Echo: “We are delighted to have Ryan and Connor with us for the rest of the season and I have to thank Kevin Ball and Elliott Dickman for trusting us with their development.
“Young Ryan has been smashing for us so far.
“He was a quiet kid when he came in but now, he is opening up and he has been fantastic.
“If he is not playing, he is around the club all of the time and we can’t fault him.
“I think he feels at home and it’s a big season for him because this could be where he could get a pro contract.
“On the other hand, Connor has been unfortunate with injuries.
“He had a problem in pre-season and they thought it would look after itself, but he has been diagnosed with a groin tear.
“He will be back in January, he is back in training now but we have agreed that he won’t be able to play until January.
“Both of them are great lads and I have no doubt they can help us kick on over the coming months.”
Leonard and Slack are the latest Black Cats youngsters to spend time with the Northern League club.
They follow in the footsteps of the likes of goalkeepers James Talbot and Anthony Patterson, and defender Thomas Howard.
And Swales believes that his club are benefitting from maintaining strong communication with the academy setup at Sunderland throughout the youngster’s loan spells.
“It’s been a long-term thing with Sunderland and they have sent a few young players to spend time with us.
“We had James Talbot, who has gone on the be called up for the Republic of Ireland.
“Last season we had Anthony Patterson and I don’t think he is too far away from making his first-team debut.
“And then we had Thom Howard, who was excellent for us but unfortunately got released at the end of last season.
“I think Sunderland trust us; they know these lads will be looked after here and we can help their development.
“We stay in touch with the club, we give them reports and feedback on the players and we keep them updated as much as we can.”