Johnson must unleash Hawkes

Johnson must unleash Hawkes

Having seen him impress for Sunderland’s U23 side so far this season, Lee Johnson should unleash Josh Hawkes over the coming weeks in a bid to help his side secure promotion from League One.

Having joined Sunderland from Hartlepool United last summer – a club where the attacking midfielder scored 13 goals and registered one assist over 63 appearances – Hawkes has so far made just one appearance for Johnson’s first team, with the 22-year-old playing the full 90 of the club’s 2-1 defeat to Fleetwood Town in the EFL Trophy back in November.

However, over his 17 Premier League 2 appearances for Elliott Dickman’s Sunderland U23 team, Hawkes has been in sensational form, bagging 11 goals and providing five assists for the development side.

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And, in a recent interview with Football Insider, Sunderland legend Kevin Phillips discussed his admiration for the youngster, stating his excitement at the potential Hawkes appears to possess, as well as calling for Johnson to involve the midfielder in the first team setup going forwards.

He said: “He is at the perfect age to come into the first team. Only Lee Johnson can make that decision but I would expect him to be involved next season. They need to start blooding these young talented players.

“His numbers for the U23s speak for themselves and I am sure he has the potential to make an impact next year. I am sure he is being talked about in meetings at the training ground.”

Indeed, with Sunderland’s form having tailed off dramatically in recent weeks, there would appear to be no better time to inject a shot of youth into the team, as Hawkes clearly has the ability to influence games in terms of both scoring and creating chances, something which could prove the difference for Sunderland in the dying moments of matches where they have been struggling to break an opponent down.

This has been the case for the Black Cats in all of their last six fixtures, as, despite dominating against Peterborough United, Charlton Athletic, Wigan Athletic, Blackpool, Hull City and Accrington Stanley, Sunderland have managed to pick up just three points.

And, with Johnson’s side sitting comfortably in the play-off positions with three fixtures of the regular season to go, the 39-year-old has a very clear opportunity to afford Hawkes some minutes ahead of their play-off fixtures, as he could be a game-changer in those crucial matches.

In other news: Move over Sanderson: SAFC could save millions by unleashing “lovely” rarely-seen beast – opinion

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