Yann M’Vila arrived at Sunderland with a reputation for ill-discipline stalling his progress over recent seasons.
His first appearance in a Sunderland shirt didn’t disappoint.
Midway through the second half of his run-out for the Under-21s at Eppleton CW, the French international needlessly got himself involved in a flashpoint and lived up to his billing with a head-butt on Norwich striker Jamar Loza that saw an inevitable red card.
The Black Cats will now have to wait and see if there is any follow-up suspension from the FA to keep M’Vila out of action in the Premier League.
But after the first-team’s rout at Leicester 24 hours earlier, it was the icing on the cake of a largely rotten weekend for Sunderland, only tempered by the 10-man U21s holding on for a 3-1 victory after three goals inside first half minutes.
Up to that point, M’Vila’s bow had actually been very promising. The on-loan Ruben Kazan midfielder clearly needs another week or two working on his fitness, but ability-wise, he’s got it with an excellent repertoire of passing on show.
As had been suggested, M’Vila is not an attacking midfielder who will score a bundle, but he is one who can set the tempo in the middle of the park.
Even if his debut was prematurely halted by a red card, 67 minutes of action won’t have done him any harm.
This was also a chance for those whose futures clearly lie away from the Stadium of Light, to attract the attention of alternative employers.
Two of those, Charis Mavrias and Will Buckley, combined to almost give Sunderland the advantage in the 21st minute.
Mavrias’ right wing corner wasn’t properly dealt with by Norwich and Buckley’s half-volley from 15 yards out was smartly tipped over the bar by keeper Ben Killip.
The lively Lynden Gooch and Mavrias combined on the edge of the Sunderland area in the build-up to Mikael Mandron’s opener six minutes before the interval.
Mandron received the ball down the inside left channel, 10 yards out, before calmly placing it into the far corner off the post.
Gooch then got on the scoresheet himself in the 42nd minute when M’Vila threaded the ball forward and the American striker outmuscled Norwich centre-half Afolabi Coker before slotting it under the keeper.
There was a third seconds later when Mavrias played a one-two with M’Vila, with the French international playing an inch-perfect through-ball for the Greek international in behind the Norwich defence.
Mavrias’ lovely chip over the keeper bounced off the underside of the crossbar, before Mandron headed home the rebound into the empty net.
But Killip spread himself well and Gooch fired against the keeper’s legs.
The flashpoint of the game arrived midway through the second half when Norwich striker Jamar Loza pushed Sunderland centre-half Tom Beadling to the floor.
M’Vila came over to get involved in the action and sent his head in the direction of the Norwich man, which saw him receive an inevitable red card.
With a man superiority, Norwich pushed hard to get back in the game - Conor McGrandles drawing a smart save from Max Stryjek, before Loza saw a goal ruled out for offside.
But Norwich could only grab a consolation with five minutes to go when Josh Robson pushed Josh McGrandles, and Josh Murphy converted the resulting penalty.
Sunderland: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, Agnew, Roberge, Beadling, Mavrias (E Robson 84), M’Vila, Mandron, Gooch (Greenwood 81), Buckley (Smith 70). Subs not used: Brady, Talbot. Sent off: M’Vila (69)
Norwich: Killip, Norman, Efete, Thompson, Crowe (Eaton-Collins 81), Coker, Jacob Murphy, McGrandles, Loza, King, Josh Murphy. Subs not used: Ramsay, Oxborough, Grant. Booked: Loza (69)