Aji Alese explains how he's settling at Sunderland following move from West Ham plus his view on Tony Mowbray
Aji Alese says Sunderland’s young squad are gelling as a group following the arrival of several new players and new head coach Tony Mowbray.
The 21-year-old defender was one of eight new arrivals at the Stadium of Light this summer, along with French midfielders Abdoullah Ba and Edouard Michut, as well as Costa Rican winger Jewison Bennette.
Alese joined Sunderland from West Ham on an initial three-year deal, with a club option of a further year, in July, but had to wait until this month’s trip to Reading to make his first competitive start.
After impressing at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, the defender also performed well when handed a second successive start at Watford three days later.
Asked what Mowbray had said to him before receiving his opportunity, Alese told the Echo: “I can’t remember exactly what was said but I think it was along the lines of just go out there and play how you can play.
“He knows I’m a good lad, he knows I’m a good player so just said go out there and enjoy it and that was it.
“He’s good with all the lads and if you’re left out he will put his arm around you and have a chat with you so it’s easy to get along with him.”
“It’s been a bit difficult when I haven’t been playing but the team has been doing really well so I just have to keep working hard and stay ready to get an opportunity and it happened to come around this time.”
Sunderland stayed down South for the games against Reading and Watford, which allowed them more time to bond as a squad while Mowbray implemented his ideas.
“Obviously we’re here to play football but you get more time with the squad so you create better relationships with some of the players you don’t know as well,” Alese added. “It’s just time to have meetings and speak to each other.
“He (Mowbray) has been here a couple of weeks so every day everyone is getting to know him better, me included.
“Sometimes when you have a few lads who are younger it’s easier to gel with them but the older lads have been amazing with the younger lads settling in as well.”
Bennette’s arrival from Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano has particularly brought excitement among supporters, after the 18-year-old came off the bench to score a late equaliser at Watford.
“Jewi brings a lot of pace, a lot of flair and is very confident on the ball,” replied Alese when asked about the winger.
“He doesn’t speak a lot of English but you can see the way he plays that he’s very comfortable.
“He brings a different dynamic where he can take a player on and a difference where he can go down the wing on his left foot.
“Some of us know a few Spanish words so we try to speak to him in that and he’s picking up English very quickly. To be fair to him he’s doing well.
“He’s a nice lad so it’s easy to get along with him and when you’re a nice lad you can fit in with anyone.”