They are not alone there – and the Premier League is littered with stories of players who promised the world but ended up not quite delivering.
It is a high stakes game, but one that is certainly worth the bother if it comes off. Think of Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal: plucked from Barcelona’s La Masia Academy at the age of 16 for a seven-figure fee.
It was a risky piece of business for Arsene Wenger, who had no guarantees about the midfielder’s future prospects when he sanctioned the daring raid for the Spaniard.
Some 303 games later, the Gunners sold him back to the Catalan giants for nearly £30million.
Think, too, of Tim Krul at Newcastle. United identified him as a potential Holland goalkeeper at the age of just 17 and paid Den Haag around £200,000 for him. Eight years on, Krul is firmly established as Newcastle’s number one and so integrated in the squad that last week he was dubbed an honorary Geordie by Press men counting up the number of English players left in the United squad.
Those two players are exceptional talents, though – blessed with technical ability and the strength of character to battle myriad obstacles that stand in front of young players and a coveted place in the starting line-up. For others, the hurdles have proved too steep. Think of Fabio Zamblera and Tamas Kadar at Newcastle, or Frenchman Jean-Yves Mvoto at Sunderland.
Recruited as promising youngsters with the potential to take the step up, their promise ultimately dissolved into nothing. Their stories are all-too-familiar for those involved in the North East’s Academies, with many more like them failing to adapt to the culture or simply believing they had made it as soon as they arrived on these shores.
At Sunderland, there is an example of a player who arrived in England with plenty to learn but appears to be cracking it bit-by-bit.
Striker Mikaël Mandon pitched up on Wearside in 2011 from French minor league club Boulogne after impressing in a trail game with all the physical attributes to be a success.
He was 6ft 1ins and growing – he is now two inches taller – and had technique and poise too.
But life was difficult at first, despite the young Frenchman having British ancestry (he can play for England and Scotland by virtue of his grandparents). Goals weren’t flowing freely and homesickness struck.
With good coaching, excellent pastoral care and a determination to stick at it, the player is now featuring in the reserves and around the fringes of the senior side. Whether he will make it or not is another matter but he is an example of the kind of player the North East’s big two are looking for.
Sunderland seem to be following Newcastle down the route of scouring for the next big European talent.
The Black Cats, too, are beginning to reshape their Academy and are inviting agents to pitch young players from around Europe. Their scouting network has been told to start looking for young stars – in and out of contract – who can be moulded into future stars.
Whatever their past experience might have been, both clubs clearly feel there is still value in tapping the emerging market.