Aji Alese opens up on his decision to leave West Ham, aspirations at Sunderland and ‘crazy’ transfer move

New Sunderland signing Aji Alese admits it’s been a crazy few days after leaving his home in London to complete a permanent move to Wearside.

Thursday, 21st July 2022, 6:00 am

The 21-year-old defender, who came through the ranks at West Ham and joined the club’s academy aged eight, has been living in a hotel since signing for the Black Cats last week.

Alese was quickly thrown into the action when he came off the bench in a pre-season friendly against Dundee United, a day after joining Sunderland, before playing 90 minutes against Bradford three days later.

"It’s been a crazy four or five days and I’ve just been stuck in a hotel and literally trained twice and featured in two games,” Alese admitted after the match at Valley Parade.

Aji Alese playing for Sunderland against Bradford.

"It’s probably better to be travelling with the squad and in matches because it’s the best way to learn how my team-mates play and to get to know them in training sessions, rather than being at home.”

"It’s difficult because London is everything I know. I’m very close to the training ground at West Ham and have been there since the age of eight.

“It’s hard moving away from there and living in a hotel but it’s the choice I made and I need to suck it up and get on with it."

That choice was made with the intention of playing more first-team football, with most of Alese’s appearances coming for West Ham’s under-23s side last season.

“I felt like I was at the point where I had to challenge myself with first-team football and I didn’t feel like maybe that was going to arrive at West Ham,” he added.

“When this opportunity arose I said I have to grab it with both hands.

“It was all done very quick and I think that’s what Sunderland wanted to do, they wanted to keep it under wraps and get it done as quick as possible.

“When the contact was made I knew that I wanted to come here.”

The move has been easier as Alese already knows some of his new Sunderland team-mates, after playing with Dan Neil and Dennis Cirkin in the England youth set-up.

The club also posted a video of Alese’s arrival on social media, as the defender was welcomed to the club by Jay Matete and other members of the Black Cats squad.

"I know him from back home in London so not extremely well but I know him from before,” said Alese when asked about Matete’s welcome. “When I saw him on Friday he was happy to see me.

“Jay has been taking me home from training so that has definitely helped.”

“Whenever you see young players doing well and thriving at a club you know that’s somewhere you’d like to be.

“I knew Dan and Dennis and Jay and they’ve been doing well here so it kind of attracted me towards the club.”

As a left-footed centre-back Alese’s arrival should bring more balance to Sunderland’s defence, while the 21-year-old played as a left-back in the second half against Bradford.

“I’m happy to play wherever the gaffer wants me to play, I’m happy to go and do a job there,” he

“Obviously, preferably on the left-hand side but I’m happy to give it a go and give 100% wherever I’m put.”