Sunderland's plans for teenage prospect Chris Rigg amid Newcastle transfer talk and first-team recognition

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Sunderland’s under-21s boss Graeme Murty says teenage prospect Chris Rigg is in a good place to continue his development despite reported interest from elsewhere.

Rigg is still only 15 but has played multiple times for the Black Cats’ under-21s side in Premier League 2, Division 2, this season.

The midfielder’s potential has led to multiple reports claiming Newcastle are closely tracking the teenager, with several Premier League clubs also said to be monitoring his progress.

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Sunderland remain hopeful Rigg has a big part to play on Wearside, and allowed the academy player to travel with the first-team squad for their Championship match at Birmingham.

Sunderland U21s boss Graeme Murty. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)Sunderland U21s boss Graeme Murty. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Sunderland U21s boss Graeme Murty. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Murty, who joined Sunderland last month following a spell in charge of Rangers, has also had conversations with England Under-17s coach Ryan Garry about Rigg’s progression.

“It’s really interesting because there are parallels between him and Billy Gilmour who I saw close at hand at Rangers, because of the young age and interest in the player." said Murty when asked about Rigg and Sunderland’s plans for the teenager.

“We have to make sure that first and foremost the messages are consistent for him so there is no confusion for him. We have to make sure that we individualise his programme because he’ll be on a different programme to his peers of a same age.

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“We have to make sure that we get an appropriate level of challenge and support and we’re making sure as a club, not just me, but lots and lots of staff around him that he’s getting what he needs. He’s in a really good place and is getting good minutes in the 21s.

“We have to make sure that if he has any questions we are open and we’re transparent with him as to his development going forward. I think if you do that with a player I don’t think they can have any negative thoughts towards the programme we’re providing.

“He’s getting exposure to some new concepts, new learning and a new level of football which is all good to him.”

Murty also recognises the challenges Rigg will face playing above his age group but has been impressed with the youngster’s attitude and willingness to learn.

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“I think there is a bit in there that when he gets the ball he wants to go and play the way he can at the under-18s level or under-16s level, and things move a little bit faster,” Murty added.

“What I will say about him is he looks like he’s an active learner, he’s very, very bright, he asks good questions, and when you give him tactical information he’s able to process that and put it into effect really quickly.

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“For me as a coach it’s a pleasure to work with players like that, and for him we have to make sure we keep giving him the appropriate level of challenge so that it doesn’t become too easy.

“We have to make sure we keep on challenging and stimulating curiosity in his mind so that he keeps on seeing this as a real aspirational and positive place to be.”