Exciting Sunderland striker Benji Kimpioka has won praise for his willingness to improve.
And while Elliot Dickman admits the 18-year-old still has a lot to learn, the Sunderland coach doesn’t believe he is too far away from making the next step, and making more of an impact at first team level.
The teenager is the latest academy graduate to make a big impression with his exciting cameo appearances.
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.
Jack Ross decided against sending him out on loan last month, instead he will regularly train with the first team.
Dickman said: “I think Benji has shown he is in and around the first-team squad and he obviously has been in some of the match-day squads, he’s trained a lot with the first team so he’s not far away from it.
“Benji is still young, he’s still got a lot to learn a lot to develop.
“I thought Sunday he did smashing up there by himself, leading the line and he’s making improvements all the time.
“As long as he continues to do that that’s all we can ask for really.”
Kimpioka was part of the Sunderland U23 side that beat Reading at the weekend, Jack Diamond scoring the only goal.
Asked how close Kimpioka and Diamond are to the first team, Dickman added: “As long as the lads keep performing as they are doing they’re there waiting for the manager if he needs them.
“The two lads have done great, obviously Benji has been around the first team in previous games and as I say that will be the first-team staff’s decision and the manager’s decision whether he wants to use them or doesn’t want to use them
“If not they still play with us and keep on going.”