George Honeyman, Tommy Robson and Rees Greenwood are at the front of the queue to feature in Sunderland’s season finale at Watford.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has vowed to give some of the club’s Under-21s squad a chance in Sunday’s final-day trip to Vicarage Road after the Black Cats secured their Premier League status with Wednesday night’s victory over Everton.
Allardyce’s first-team regulars will not return to training until tomorrow morning after he gave the players two days off to celebrate survival and, with the Watford trip a dead-rubber, the Sunderland boss will experiment with his line-up.
Midfielder Honeyman, left-back Robson and winger Greenwood have all trained regularly with the first-team squad over recent weeks, along with highly-rated Under-18s striker Josh Maja.
It is understood that they would have been given a chance sooner this season if Sunderland had not been involved in the relegation scrap, but Allardyce sees this as the perfect game to give them a chance.
Allardyce said: “We’ll give some of the young ‘uns a go.
“Some of the Under-21s have been training with us for quite a while, week in, week out.
“They seem to be capable and putting them into a game that effectively doesn’t mean too much, is helpful.
“This is a great opportunity to play some of the youngsters and hopefully they’ll stand up at Watford, which gives us some encouragement to include them in the first-team squad for the start of the season.”
U21 graduates Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford are also likely to start at Vicarage Road, while there could be a farewell appearance for out-of-contract Wes Brown.
Sunderland have nothing at stake at Watford, with the Black Cats unable to finish any higher than 17th spot.
But Allardyce admits that has been an issue at former clubs, when he has been instructed not to blood youngsters on the final day to bank the revenue from a higher finishing spot.
“I’ve not had Ellis saying to me – like other owners – that you can’t do that because it’s £1.2million a place,” added Allardyce.
“That’s not even been a suggestion.
“In the past, I’ve wanted to play youngsters but have been told that if we win the game, we’ll go up two more places.
“So then you don’t play them, because it’s sad. If you don’t play the youngsters, you don’t know if they’re going to be good enough.”