STEVE BRUCE may be regarded as something as an expert at unearthing talent from South America, but he fully intends to help Ged McNamee make Sunderland’s Academy system one of the best around.
McNamee and his staff were proud to see one of their pupils, Jordan Henderson, stake his claim for a first team Premier League place by grabbing his first senior goal for the club in the Carling Cup success over Birmingham on Tuesday.
But Grant Leadbitter and Martyn Wagorn aside, there has been a shortage of graduates stepping into the Sunderland team in recent years.
The success of the Academy has raised hopes that there will soon be a number of others forcing their way into Bruce’s thinking. Michael Liddle, Jamie Chandler, Michael Kay and David Dowson are among those most likely.
Bruce, however, is in no mood to take the production line for granted and is looking at ways of making sure that McNamee can attract the best youngsters across the region at the expense of Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Hartlepool and Darlington.
And the Sunderland manager – a product of the renowned Wallsend Boys Club that produced the likes of Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Michael Carrick – intends to start by heading back to his roots.
“Ged told me that Wallsend Boys Club were coming over recently so I knew Peter Kirkley, the Wallsend president, would be here because he has been doing it for the best part of 35 to 40 years,”
said Bruce, who has been including Academy youngster Trevor Carson as his back-up goalkeeper in the Premier League.
“Eventually when I get more settled I will invite Peter over for a cup of tea and thank him because let me tell you, he will know all the best players in this area bar none because nothing gets past Peter.
The only thing is that he does a bit for the black and whites!
“We will try anywhere and look anywhere for potential Sunderland players. It was a coincidence that a month ago there was a Wallsend Boys Club side over here playing one of our teams because it had been arranged for a long time. I think it was Under-15 level so I went over to take in the game but I knew Peter would be here so it was good to see him.”
While Bruce wants to make sure his scouting system helps to attract the best locally produced talent, he also wants to continue to exploit the foreign market.
During his previous stints at Wigan and Birmingham he became renowned for attracting little-known internationals and turning them into Premier League stars.
He helped Wilson Palacios, Antonio Valencia and Miguel Figueroa become highlysought after players and he hopes to do similar with Paulo Da Silva and numerous others in the future – only this time he would prefer to keep them rather than sell.
“Here the players are absolutely ruined. We have got the best of pitches, best of food, the best of everything,”
said Bruce. “Look at South America if you want to talk about it.
“It is still a bit primitive. To get better you have to have a better training ground and better facilities that’s for sure.
We have proved that often enough but still your grounding stays with you.
“We have spent a lot of time in South America again and only two weeks ago Eric Black, my assistant, was out there and Ricky Sbragia was out there as well so obviously we have got a connection out there that will we are not going to lose.
“The problem we have got when it comes to that part of the world is work permits.
That is the main problem.
“I could go over to Argentina and Brazil tomorrow and buy ten players for £2m just like that. That would be very easily done but you can’t get them in because of work permits and the regulations.
“I also know Honduras, I know Ecuador, I know Paraguay and I know their national teams and their squads inside out because obviously I have had a bit of success there and I hope that I can continue to do that. I hope.”