Sunderland’s academy has produced a steady stream of players, with Benji Kimpioka the latest to make an impact at first team level.
George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Jordan Pickford, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja, Ethan Robson and Denver Hume among the players to break through at the Stadium of Light in recent seasons.
Pickford, Asoro and the recently-departed Maja have moved on but there remains a core of academy players in Jack Ross’ squad.
And 18-year-old Kimpioka is the latest to make a big impression with his exciting cameo appearances, the highly-rated striker now regularly training with the first team squad.
The Sweden Under-18 international made his League One debut as a sub in the 2-2 draw with Peterborough United and he has been a Checkatrade Trophy regular, scoring twice in five games including a header in the 4-0 win over Newcastle United’s Under-21s.
Kimpioka has impressed Ross and the Scot doesn’t think the teenager will head out on loan this month, instead the aim is to keep him in and around training with the first team squad, much the same way Bali Mumba, 17, has done.
Sunderland are light on strikers following the departures of Jerome Sinclair and Josh Maja with Ross desperate to add two new forwards before Thursday’s 11pm deadline.
Asked whether he planned to use Kimpioka more in the second half of the season given he hasn’t gone out on loan, Ross said: “There are a couple of reasons for that, one very obvious in that we don’t have a lot of options in attacking areas and you saw that against Manchester City U21s, with Charlie [Wyke] having a knock. We didn’t really have any other strikers.
“He is also still fairly young, he is only 18. If he was a little bit older I think I would maybe pushing that he needs to go out and play but he has racked up a few senior appearances this year.
“I have started to include him more in my group for training on a regular basis because I want to keep progressing him.
“He has progressed in seven months, his progress has been really good, he came from nowhere to feature in the first team. He still has a lot to improve upon, especially out of possession.
“He is willing to learn but it is about getting him to take in the information and understand it properly.
“It is important he puts himself in the right positions and areas, for example, sometimes these things aren’t always as obvious.
“But he has certainly got something and every time he has had an opportunity he has been really good. I have been pleased with him.
“Certainly at the moment I think he will stay in and around the first team, even if it is just training everyday, we have seen that with Bali, that brings players on.
“And also for me, if I need another option in a forward area then I have got it.”