Joel Asoro says he has a natural connection up front with Josh Maja after starring in Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Hull City.
Both players were involved in Saturday’s superb winning goal, Asoro finishing a move that Chris Coleman described as one of the best ever scored by a team under his management.
Six of the starting XI were aged 23 or under and Asoro says that years of playing with Maja in youth football helped them to make an impact.
He said: “We spoke about it before the game, talking about playing together up front.
“We just told each other to be ready. We know so well how to play with each other.
“We have a natural understanding going because we have played together for two years now. So we know each other’s game.
“In a way, it feels like playing in the Under-23s with so many young players in the side.
“We have this connection to play with each other.
“With Josh, if one of us is going for a header, the other one knows where to be.”
The pair had also helped seal a priceless home win over Fulham earlier in Coleman’s tenure, when Maja scored the winner, with both players receiving a rapturous reception from the home support.
That has continued in recent weeks and Asoro has thanked the Sunderland fans for their support.
He said: “When Josh scored his winner, I was just so happy for him because he has had a lot of injuries to deal with. So happy. But I am glad is was my time (on Saturday).
“And like him, it was at home so we could share the happiness with the fans. They have really got behind me.
“It feels like they are my family. I have that connection with them. I feel the fans understand me.”
Coleman hailed his young players after a difficult week in which the contract impasse with Jack Rodwell dominated the headlines, but Asoro insists the manager is treating them as senior players as they look to revive Sunderland’s season.
He said: “Chris Coleman is a manager who will give you a chance as a young player and it is up to us to take it
“He always tells us that when we go out there, we have to be men. We can’t use our youth as an excuse for not performing.
“We have to forget we are teenagers playing so few games. If you do not perform, you cannot blame it on your age.
“If fans see you working hard, you might get a chance to prove yourself.”