This is how Jordan Willis fared on his Sunderland debut in Portugal

As debuts go, it was a low-key one.

By Phil Smith
Friday, 19 July, 2019, 06:00
Jordan Willis made his Sunderland debut in Portugal on Thursday night

A sedate ground, a warm evening and a goalless game.

It goes without saying that we will not know too much about Jordan Willis until that opening day of the season, when 30,000 or so descend on the Stadium of Light and Oxford United attack in search of their first and biggest scalp of the season.

Still, there was more than enough on show here to underline why Jack Ross was so keen and fought so hard to bring him to the club.

Willis was handed an unenviable task, playing on the right-side of a back three (a system he has not played much in recently) and alongside new team-mates also adapting to a new system.

There were one or two tough moments.

Benfica B had in their ranks a unique talent, the tiny but spectacularly quick Rodrigo Conceicao. On one occasion Willis was left to chase and few defenders in the world would have won that race. Conceicao cut back inside and forced a decent save from Lee Burge.

For the most part, though, Willis looked comfortable and brings something new and much needed to this defence.

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That footrace belied the fact that he has good speed, underlined when he raced to win a loose ball on more than one occasion.

He was also dominant in the air, and it is already evident that he can produce impressive power with his heading. More than one of his headers flew deep into the Benfica half.

Ross has spoken much about where Sunderland stand in the transfer market in recent weeks and it is genuinely not a complaint when he talks of the limited funds.

He just wants to stress the reality about what the club can do and to try and embrace the positives, of which there are plenty.

Sign players at a good age who can improve and offer future value, while also adding the necessary pace and strength that will make the team better fit for purpose in the coming campaign.

Willis absolutely typifies that model.

If he can build on this display, there is much to look forward to.