Saturday was Jake Clarke-Salter’s first experience of the Stadium of Light and by the end he felt ‘unbeatable’.
Wearside has not had much to cheer about of late, but as the Black Cats dug in for a crucial three points against Hull City, the 20-year-old got his first taste of the atmosphere and the potential that convinced him to pick Sunderland this month.
After a chastening debut at the Cardiff City Stadium, Clarke-Salter impressed alongside John O’Shea and Tyias Browning at the heart of the Sunderland defence.
To secure a clean sheet and demonstrate a capacity to handle such a high-pressure game was a significant boost for the defender and his team-mates in what was one of the youngest start team’s in recent memory.
He said: “To get a clean sheet on my home debut was massive. The fans were great.
“When the fans were behind us it felt like you’re unbeatable.
“When they’re behind you it’s great and it helped us to dig in deep as a team to get the three points.
“The boys dug deep to clear everything that was thrown at us and Robbin behind us was great.
“Everything was laid out there. The players gave it their all and we’re very happy with the clean sheet and the three points most importantly.
“Everyone’s tried to stay positive and show we’re not scared. We want to go out there and try our hardest.”
After a stellar year in the Chelsea and England youth systems, the time had come for Clarke-Salter to get regular action and with Marc Wilson struggling for fitness, he has immediately become an important part of Chris Coleman’s first team plans.
With injuries biting, Coleman has had little to choice but to put his faith in youth and Clarke-Salter was impressed by the duo who stole the show up front.
Surprisingly, the 20-year-old has not played against either Josh Maja or Joel Asoro as they made their way through the youth set-up, but Asoro’s raw pace and talent comes as no surprise.
Asoro trained with Chelsea before signing for Sunderland and the pair will now hope to announce themselves on the senior stage in the coming months.
Clarke-Salter echoed his manager’s sentiments, this was a fine win, but one that must be backed up by securing another win against Birmingham City this time next week.
He said: “I haven’t come up against them much, but obviously I’d done my research before I came and Joel trained at Chelsea a few years ago, so I know him from that.
“Joel and Josh were excellent against Hull.
“Their performance was excellent and they won us the game with the goal.
“The next game for us is massive against Birmingham, so hopefully we can go out there and produce another good performance and win.”