In profile: The 16-year-old schoolboy impressing for Sunderland Under-23s

Bali Mumba in action for Sunderland Under-23s.
Bali Mumba in action for Sunderland Under-23s.
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With so many younger players involved at first team level for Sunderland, it has opened up opportunities further down the chain.

Sunderland Under-23s, also battling against relegation, have been able to give players such as 16-year-old Bali Mumba the chance to test himself against players seven years older than him.

And without putting any undue pressure on Mumba, the teenager has caught the eye.

Mumba is a versatile midfielder, who can play also play in defence, and was scouted by Sunderland at a very young age.

"I was in year three playing at a school tournament – that’s when I got scouted," he told the club website.

"At the time I didn’t realise just how big an opportunity it was."

Nine years later, the 16-year-old made his first appearance for the U23's in a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City and made his first start in a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United, Mumba also took part and impressed during wins against Everton and Leicester City.

The youngster had this to say regarding his first start against the Red Devils,

"I was grateful for the chance. Elliott [Dickman] has put his trust me in and for him to start me and play the full game was a great feeling.

"I was very happy but of course disappointed with the performance and the result. Hopefully there is more to come but we will see where it goes.”

After being scouted at such a young age, the U23's star wants to exceed expectations and repay those who have believed in him for near nine years.

"I want to repay the people who believe in me and have shown faith.

"There are a lot of people here who have given me so much, helped me develop and I just want to pay them back by doing everything that’s right like performing.

"I want pay back what they have done and for all the faith they have shown in me by performing and staying focused."

The youngster admits he is happy with how he has played but constantly wants to improve.

"Looking back at last season to this one to where I am now I wasn’t really expecting opportunities to come so quickly.

"I feel as though I have dealt with all the pressure well and I think I have taken my chances but there’s plenty of hard work still to do," added Mumba, who made his England U17's debut in August 2017 as England came out 3-2 winners over Turkey.

He has even had a taste of first team training at the Academy of Light, Mumba, though, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

He added: "I was nervous before my first session with the first-team because I didn’t know what to expect or what might happen but after training with them it really shows you where you are and what step you are in your development.

"It helped show me what I needed to work on and training with them has been good.

"It has really opened up my mind and showed me what I need to work on to become a better player."