With Lee Johnson having seen his Sunderland side get their League One campaign off to the best of starts on Saturday, the 40-year-old’s attention will now be on the Black Cats’ EFL Cup fixture on Tuesday evening.
And, with the Mackems set to face League Two side Port Vale in the cup competition, Johnson may well use the opportunity to afford a number of the club’s peripheral first-team players and up-and-coming youth talents some valuable game time.
One such player the 40-year-old simply must consider starting, who just so happens to fit into both of the categories mentioned above, is Josh Hawkes.
Indeed, the 22-year-old has been tipped to make a big impact within the Sunderland side this season by Johnson himself, with the manager stating his belief that the left-midfielder is an “exciting” prospect, as well as claiming the youngster has the “ability to turn a game on its head.”
However, with Hawkes being an unused substitute in the victory over Wigan Athletic last weekend, the Mackems manager has been presented with something of the perfect opportunity to allow the midfielder to demonstrate his ability at professional level against Port Vale.
And, if the £510-per-week man can reach anywhere near the level he hit for the Black Cats U23 side last season, we would not bet against him lighting up the fixture on Tuesday evening.
Indeed, over his 22 Premier League 2 appearances last time out, the 22-year-old scored 14 goals and registered seven assists, firing his team all the way to the promotion play-off final – in which they narrowly lost out to Crystal Palace U23s 1-0.
Should Hawkes start on Tuesday?
As such, it is evident that Hawkes is a player with a significant amount of potential, in addition to already being an extremely accomplished player.
However, the next step is clearly establishing himself within the Sunderland first-team, something that it is obvious the youngster has the ability to do, all that is required is Johnson’s faith, trust and patience.