Bali Mumba in contention to feature against Charlton Athletic after 'terrific' pre-season

Luke O'Nien's imminent arrival will represent something of a coup for Sunderland.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 10:56

There was interest across the division for his signature and his career is on an upward curve.

News of his likely departure from Wycombe Wanderers has been followed by an outpouring of disappointment and well-wishes from those close to the club.

Bali Mumba in action against Middlesbrough

As with Jack Baldwin, Sunderland supporters will hope that is a good sign both of his quality at this level and his character.

O'Nien has played plenty of football in pre-season so should arrive on Wearside in good condition.

Whether Jack Ross throws him straight into the line-up against Charlton Athletic remains to be seen, and there is undoubtedly competition.

Ross is a big fan of Ethan Robson, who is hoping to recover from an injury this week.

And then there is Bali Mumba, the 16-year-old who has played a full part in pre-season and never once looked out of his depth. It was that way again against Middlesbrough, Mumba competing well against an imposing midfield.

At one stage he was easily beaten by the talent Martin Braithwaite, but returned moments later to spin delightfully on the edge of the opposition box, launching the move that saw Josh Maja come within inches of scoring what would have been the winning goal.

Jack Ross is reluctant to put too much pressure on such young shoulders but had no intention of playing down the quality with which Mumba is playing.

At this stage, he has established himself firmly in his first team thoughts.

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"He's done that throughout the whole pre-season period," Ross said.

"You quite often come to a club having heard of a young player and they have a lot of hype around them. But you work with him on a daily basis, [you see] not just his ability on the pitch but how mature he is as a character. I've been really impressed by him.

"Circumstances have probably dictated that he's had more opportunities than he may have had previously in this pre-season but he's taken every one of them.

"Against Middlesbrough, probably the biggest compliment I can pay him is that he looked comfortable on that stage, against good players.

"Giving up a lot physically but the way he uses his body, how composed he is, he undoubtedly has a bright future.

"At the moment I just see him as part of my squad. Every single day he's trained with me, I see no reason why that won't continue as the season goes on.

"We're mindful that he's still very, very young but he's been terrific and I'm really pleased for him."

Ross remains hopeful that the 'influential' Dylan McGeouch will be fit to play against Charlton after being substituted with a tight calf during the game with Middlesbrough.

Lee Cattermole is also a doubt after missing the contest due to illness.

Ross, it seems, will have no qualms handing Mumba his second senior appearance should they fail to recover.