Jack Ross says Sunderland are set to step up their efforts to secure Bali Mumba on a new contract.
Mumba turned 17 today, meaning he can now sign professional terms at the club he has represented right through the Academy set-up.
The youngster made his debut from the bench on the final day of last season, as the Black Cats beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0.
He then started the first two league games of the season but the arrival of Max Power, the fitness of Dylan McGeouch and the form of Lee Cattermole has seen his playing time reduced..
His last appearance came in August, as a substitute in the 3-0 win over Scunthorpe.
Ross has continued to be impressed by his quality and temperament, however, and says he was planning to use him in the games against Peterborough United and Bradford City last week.
A call up to the England U18 squad means he is one of fourteen players set to miss the Checkatrade clash against Carlisle United but more first team action this season looks likely.
"There'd been a plan in place for [a new contract]," Ross said.
"Now that he's turning 17 they're able to progress that and hopefully, like the other ones, we'll be able to do that.
"His involvement with us on pretty much a weekly basis shows how much I think of him.
"He's been a little bit unfortunate in the last couple of games not to come on, to be honest, just because of how those games went. He's been training really well. He had a little bit of a dip but then kicked on again, which was brilliant for us to see.
"He was very much in my thoughts for the Peterborough and Bradford games.
"Not just in terms of being on the bench but in my planning for getting him on the pitch.
"But the way the games have went, the changes we had to make, it wasn't quite right for him. He'd have played tomorrow but at his age it's important for him to go away with England and have that recognition.
It means an awful lot to him, he was really chuffed when he get his first U18's call up last time," Ross added.
"He wants to keep doing that all the way through, It never for a second came into my head for him not to be involved."
Mumba is one of a number of players that Sunderland are eager to secure on new deals in the coming weeks and months.
Speaking last week, Ross said: "Denver [Hume], Josh [Maja], Lynden [Gooch], George [Honeyman] and Max Stryjek are all out of contract in the summer.
“We’re keen to keep all of them at the club and the communication with their representatives has begun.
"How quickly that process will go, we’ll wait and see.
"It’s not just about Josh, we’re keen to keep all these younger players who have come through the club because they’re good enough to keep helping us progress. Hopefully, they’ll be part of that.
“It’s important for these young lads to get rewarded. It happens in other lines of work, where people get promoted, but in football, there’s not really that mechanism," Ross added.
"It’s so much more complicated than it used to be in terms of how players reach decisions about where their future lies.
"As a manager, the most simplistic way to look at it is that I want them to be in my squad. I ask the club to reward them with a contract, that’s probably as much as I can do. If there’s any persuasion from me, it’s in terms of how I see them in the playing squad. Then it’s down to how much that matters to them.”