Elliot Dickman reveals how Sunderland contract talks have affected Benji Kimpioka
Elliot Dickman believes Benji Kimpioka remains in a good place - despite ongoing uncertainty over his Sunderland contract situation.
The 19-year-old has struggled for consistent form in the under-23 side this term, with suspension and international duty seeing his chances on Wearside limited.
Indeed, the striker is yet to feature for the first-team squad this term after being handed a number of chances in the 2018/19 season.
Kimpioka’s current contract is set to expire at the end of the season and he is yet to agree fresh terms, but Dickman insists that any off-field uncertainty isn’t affecting his development.
“I think the fact that he's been away a few times with Sweden in amongst that has helped him, with a little change of scenery,” said the Sunderland under-23 boss.
“It's good for him to do that, but when he's with us he's fine. He's like any young teenage lad - he has his moments - but generally he's fine.
“He is getting better and there are a few times when he gets a little bit frustrated, and that could be because of his performances, it could be anything really.
“The contract talk has nothing to do with me, but if it gets sorted then brilliant and if it doesn't then we'll deal with it and move forward from there.”
Kimpioka is one of a number of youngsters being closely monitored by new manager Phil Parkinson, who is set to hand the teenager a place in the squad for the visit of Tranmere Rovers.
Bali Mumba also travelled with the first team to Wycombe, while Parkinson has been quick to hand youngsters a chance to shine in training.
And while circumstances mean Dickman and Parkinson have had limited interaction during the new manager’s early days in the job, the second string chief has been left impressed.
Dickman said: “It's obviously been a bit of a whirlwind for him.
“He was appointed on Thursday, trained Friday then played Saturday. With our game tonight, our schedules haven't really matched.
“But we have spoken to him and he was brilliant. The lads have been over training and he spoke to the lads before training.
“Sometimes you're thrown into the deep end a little bit and it hasn't been an easy few days for him, I'm sure.”
Having watched the Black Cats’ next generation in training, Parkinson also took in their 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United in Premier League 2.
And Dickman is keen to see the former Bolton and Bradford boss taking an interest in the club’s youngsters.
“It's great,” he admitted.
“Any manager that comes to watch the under-23s is fantastic, so the fact he's here is good.
“He gets to see the lads and it's probably the first chance he's had to see them in a match.
“Obviously he's seen them in training, but tonight he'll have got a good idea of what the lads are about.
“Hopefully he'll have seen what we've seen - that their character and work ethic was good and they kept going until the end.”
Defeat to the Magpies saw the young Black Cats’ wait for a win continue, with the side yet to claim a triumph in Premier League 2 this term.
But that isn’t concerning the coaching staff, which Dickman keen to focus on development rather than results.“The squad is what it is. We'll just keep at it, keep plugging away.
“The results haven't been great for us this season but we want to see individual improvement with players and if we can manage to get one or two of these lads a career in the game, in around the first team somewhere - or in our first team - then we'll be quite happy with the job we've done.
“If that does happen, not many people will look at the results.
“At the moment people do - it is what it is and we have to deal with it. We've got to keep working hard on the training ground and hopefully one day we might get that win.
“But the main thing is that improvement and development of the individual. I think everybody at the club is comfortable with that. If the whole focus is on winning then we should be disappointed - but it isn't.”