JORDAN Henderson believes a spell in the Championship’s school of hard knocks will help Jack Colback and Martyn Waghorn become first-team contenders for Sunderland next season.
Colback and Waghorn will be given pre-season to impress Steve Bruce, who hopes that they have developed enough during loan spells last term to play a part in his Premier League squad.
Sunderland have fielded plenty of calls from Championship clubs about the duo already this summer, but Bruce will assess their progress first before deciding whether they will benefit from more first-team
football. Competition for places will be as fierce as ever at the Stadium of Light next season with Bruce determined to add more quality to his squad. But Henderson believes spells in the Championship will ensure his fellow young guns a fair crack of the whip on Wearside.
Colback was players’ player of the year at Ipswich Town, while Waghorn also won numerous awards at Leicester City, where he would be welcomed back with open arms next season.
They are both in a similar position to Henderson 12 months ago, who earned himself an extended run in the Sunderland side after excelling in pre-season. “I think it’s a massive thing in your career to go on loan. It was the most important thing I ever did and I think it will be the same for Jack and Waggy,” he said.
“I went away and got that experience and I came away a lot stronger physically and a lot wiser mentally for playing a regular part in things at Coventry.
“I think it gives you such a lift just to be playing first-team football. It gives you confidence that you can do it because the Championship is a tough league with great players.”
Bruce, who is targeting a top-eight finish next term, has already been active in the transfer market by signing Paraguay midfielder Cristian Riveros.
Deals for Belgium keeper Simon Mignolet and Argentina right-back Marcos Angeleri are also as good as done, bringing the total number of new recruits to three before mid-June.
Sunderland expect to add further new faces before the start of the season – with Waghorn potentially competing with a new striker if Bruce has his way.
It puts pressure on Sunderland’s crop of excellent youngsters to perform, but Henderson feels that the manager has already illustrated that he will pick on performances rather than reputation.
“Jack and Waggy have come back a lot stronger from their loan,” he said.
“They were great players as it was but they did really well at Ipswich and at Leicester and that will have given them plenty of confidence.
“Obviously we’re going to sign players but the manager has shown he doesn’t pick players on reputation. He will give everyone a chance.”
Henderson’s graduation into the first team has helped Sunderland’s planning for next season – giving them options at right and central midfield.
Black Cats boss Bruce has admitted his development has “saved him millions”, and it means he is free to concentrate on strengthening his defence before the start of the Premier League campaign in August.
Meanwhile, the Black Cats hope to unveil the captures of Mignolet, aged 21, and Angeleri, 27, next week after both players agreed contracts. The Belgium Under-21 goalkeeper has signed a five-year deal, while Angeleri has penned a four-year contract.