Aji Alese gives the exciting inside track on Sunderland's first January signing

Aji Alese says Sunderland will provide the perfect platform for his former West Ham United team-mate Pierre Ekwah to showcase his talent in senior football.

Alese and Ekwah were regulars in the West Ham United U21s team last season and the pair were reunited this week when the French midfielder signed a four-and-a-half year deal on Wearside.

Ekwah, who is eligible to make his debut when Sunderland travel to Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon, said that he had received growing references about the club from Alese even before the prospect of him making the same move emerged.

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Alese told safc.com that he Ekwah's technical ability and athleticism would give him a big chance of making an impact in the weeks and months ahead.

Pierre Ekwah joined Sunderland on a long-term deal earlier this week

“It was only the one season, but we got on well on and off the pitch," Alese said.

"I played left-side centre-half in the U23 team and he played left-side central midfield, so we combined a lot.

“We had a great relationship as teammates, and it’s something that hopefully we can continue up here.”

"As a player I would say Pierre’s very technical, but also strong off the ball as an athlete – tall, quick, and can move well.

“Athleticism is a part of the game which keeps getting bigger and more important, so those attributes he has can definitely help us.”

Ekwah explained after signing that Sunderland's commitment to handing young players opportunities was key to his decision to make the move, with a number of other Championship clubs understood to have been interested in signing him.

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"I suppose that’s the next step in Pierre’s career now, to break in and play in a first team," Alese said.

“It’s the same reason I joined in the summer – the young squad with a lot of potential, the philosophy of the club – we want to bring in and develop young players, which we’ve seen this season. Here will definitely be a good place for Pierre to showcase his talents.”

The pair could yet link up to face Fulham this weekend, with Alese making his return from injury ahead of schedule against Middlesbrough.