John O’Shea has picked out young guns David Moberg Karlsson and El-Hadji Ba as two to watch as Sunderland prepare for the next stage of their revolution.
The Black Cats have overhauled their squad during the summer, bringing in 10 players while telling senior men like Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole to find new clubs.
But for all the international talent that has come in, O’Shea thinks the young midfield schemers are worth a second look.
“I wouldn’t like to pick one of them out, but a couple of the younger lads caught the eye,” he said.
“They might not start straight away, but Karlsson and El-Hadji Ba in the centre of midfield are two very bright prospects who’ve shown glimpses of what they’re capable of.
“I wouldn’t like to put too much pressure on some of the so-called older signings. They’re all showing lots of good signs and hopefully there’s lot of good things to come from them.
“There’s a lot more experience with Jozy Altidore than the first time he was here in the Premier League. He’s done a lot of touring around Europe, scoring lots of goals, and picked up experience with the US national team. Manu Giaccherini plays for the Italian team and Cabral was excellent with Basle in the Europa League, so there’s lots of positives there and the new defenders will provide competition for whoever’s in the team.”
Paolo Di Canio has declared the summer changes at the Stadium of Light as a “revolution”, and O’Shea admits that it feels like a new direction for the club. He said: “As players we just get on with it, there’s a lot of stuff I suppose going on in the background and eventually you get to meet all the new people, like the new chief scout.
“Lads were coming and going, signing, leaving, but as players, you’re fairly used to it.
“The new lads were quite determined to prove themselves, it’s like a fresh start for everyone.
“Towards the end of last season the manager came in with a mandate just to keep us up and he talked to us about how he wanted to play, but obviously the games were dictating.
“But now he’s trying to implement things like how he wants the team to be structured, the pattern of play and that’s what we’re working on.
“The revolution has started. It definitely feels exciting, especially if we get the squad the manager wants. If we can get everything in place before the window shuts, it’s definitely something to look forward to.”
Sunderland have worked hard to try to integrate all the new players with O’Shea asked to room with two of the summer arrivals during trips to Italy and Hong Kong.
While accepting it has been an “intense” close season, O’Shea is at pains to point out that Di Canio is not as authoritarian as he’s been portrayed.
And he says the whole pre-season has been planned with Saturday’s home clash with Fulham in mind.
He said: “We’ve put in a lot of graft. Some of the performances and results have been really positive, but with others we need to improve.
“That’s what’s the manager’s looking for us to do. The acid test for us is when the Premier League starts. Hopefully the squad will be better balanced than last season with better options.”