Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Cats Get Chance to Find 'New Kenwyne' Sunderland's Caribbean Expansion Plans Could Reap Rewards on the Pitch, John Barnes Tells Mark Douglas in an Exclusive Interview

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Cats Get Chance to Find 'New Kenwyne' Sunderland's Caribbean Expansion Plans Could Reap Rewards on the Pitch, John Barnes Tells Mark Douglas in an Exclusive Interview

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

SUNDERLAND are in prime position to reap the benefits of the explosion in Caribbean football according to former England international John Barnes - the man tasked with finding the continent's next big stars.

The Black Cats are running the rule over some of the Caribbean's most promising young stars this week, giving eight players hand-picked by Barnes the chance to train with their Academy and showcase their talents.

It is part of an initiative dreamt up by telecommunications giant Digicel - a key partner in Sunderland's attempts to expand into the Caribbean, one of the few global markets that remains relatively untapped by England's top clubs.

Digicel pay for the young players to come over to England and use the club's top-flight facilities, while Sunderland gain some exposure on a continent where their profile is already skyhigh thanks to the impact of Carlos Edwards, Kenwyne Jones and Dwight Yorke. But, according to Barnes, the initiative is much more than a marketing ploy. The former Liverpool and Newcastle midfielder saw enough from a six-month scouting mission to suggest the Caribbean has the potential to mirror the impact that African football has had on England's top league over the past five years.

And he says that is good news for the Black Cats, who have got 'on board' at the early stages of the continent's footballing development.

"If you look at what has happened with African football and the way the top European sides have started to cherry-pick the best talent from that continent, I believe the same thing could happen with the Caribbean in the next few years," he said. "The lads who have come over to train with Sunderland have very similar attributes to the African players who have come over to England and made their name. They're quick and strong and those are characteristics which you need to be a success in the English Premier League.

"Obviously the Caribbean is tiny compared to Africa but there is a huge amount of interest and a lot of potential there too. …

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