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Former Braintree youngster Alfie Cerulli featured as a trialist for Sunderland’s U23s on Monday night during a 3-1 victory over Norwich City, as reported by FlashScore.

If Black Cats fans were hoping that their often-undervalued academy would be placed at the forefront of yet another new era on Wearside, then they may be in luck.

In sporting director Kristjaan Speakman, the League One giants have a man who helped develop the likes of Jack Butland, Demarai Gray and £25 million England international Jude Bellingham during his time in charge of Birmingham City’s academy.

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Even before Speakman’s arrival, Sunderland have been working hard behind the scenes, luring a whole host of exciting youngsters to the North East.

Players from Burnley, West Brom and Everton arrived to boost their youth ranks over the summer.

And there was another new face in action as Norwich made the long trip up the country yesterday.

The Sunderland website stated that an unnamed trialist started for Elliott Dickman’s side in a 3-1 win, a game in which summer signing Josh Hawkes (below) produced a trio of assists.

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A glance at FlashScore, however, confirms the mystery man’s identity – 19-year-old centre-forward Alfie Cerulli.

Interestingly, the teenager featured for Colchester United’s U23s a few weeks ago but, for whatever reason, it seems that he did not end up putting pen to paper with the League Two outfit.

That has opened the door for Sunderland, though it remains to be seen whether Cerulli has done enough to impress in red and white. 

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In other news, ‘Better than Messi’, ‘Play him tomorrow’: Some Liverpool fans stunned by midfielder’s U23s display