Pierre Ekwah: Why I chose Sunderland move and what the fans can expect

Pierre Ekwah says Sunderland's commitment to giving young players opportunities was key to convincing him to make the switch.

The highly-rated midfielder signed a four-and-a-half year contract on Wearside yesterday after the Black Cats agreed a permanent deal with West Ham United.

Ekwah's potential availability in the January window had several Championship clubs on high alert, but Sunderland won the race and could hand the Frenchman a debut against Fulham in the FA Cup this weekend.

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The 21-year-old had been impressed with Sunderland's project from afar, and revealed he had been given glowing references by former West Ham United team-mate

Sunderland midfielder Pierre Ekwah

Aji Alese even before becoming aware of the interest from the North East.

"There's a big project here to get back into the Premier League at some point, the history and vision of the club really attracted me and I’m delighted to be here," Ekwah told safc.com.

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"It’s great to see the club trusting young players and that’s something that really appealed to me – it seems a great environment for me to develop as both a person and a player, and I can’t wait to get started.

“I think Sunderland is a great set-up now, with the gaffer and the whole board. I think it's a great set-up for young players to come and develop themselves and they give time and encouragement to young players to come and play their game.

"I've had Aji Alese on the phone as well, we played together last season and he had so many good things to say about Sunderland so that definitely played its part. He had positive things to say even before there was any talks about me moving here.

“So I think it's just a perfect club for me, a perfect environment for me to progress as a man and as a player and develop my game in men's football."

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Ekwah fits the bill for Sunderland as a versatile midfielder capable of playing in the holding role but also further forward when required. He produced a goal and an assist in his final appearance for West Ham United U21s against Manchester United on Friday night.

The Frenchman himself has told fans to expect a dynamic midfielder.

"I like to play as a number eight, I like to do a bit of everything," he said.

"I think I can handle the ball well and I can run around, put a tackle in. I'd say I'm an eight who can attack and defend."

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Tony Mowbray said his new signing would offer something different to his current midfield options: "He is a player we have been monitoring for some time, and we believe he will add something different to the dynamic of our midfield.

"Having met him, he has a brilliant personality – he wants to get better and show he can play first-team football. He brings a level of physicality and we’re really looking forward to working with him.”

Sunderland remain eager to add at least one centre-forward to their squad before the window shuts next week.