Why ex-Manchester City and Middlesbrough man Patrick Roberts played for Sunderland Under-23s against Stoke

Patrick Roberts asked to play for Sunderland’s under-23 side as he continues to build up his match fitness.

The 25-year-old joined the Black Cats from Manchester City in January but is short of game time, after making just two appearances while on loan at French side Troyes in the first half of the campaign.

Roberts, who has made four League One appearances from the bench, played an hour as the young Black Cats were beaten 3-0 by Stoke at Eppleton CW.

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When asked about Roberts’ inclusion, Sunderland coach Michael Proctor told the Echo: “That was Patrick’s decision.

Patrick Roberts playing for Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID

“He obviously needs minutes and he asked if he could come and play which is exactly the sort of attitude that we want as a club.

“I thought he applied himself in the right manner, had some bright sparks throughout the game.

“It was a decision that Patrick made and obviously the club are more than happy with that decision because it gets him minutes and closer to match fitness.”

“We are obviously open for first-team players coming down to improve their fitness levels or to get minutes.

“I’m sure between now and the end of the season that will happen again, not nesserally just with Patrick but there might be other players that are potentially coming back from injury.

“We haven’t had those discussions yet but it’s great for the player and it’s also great for the young players to learn from people like Patrick.”

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Another player who has benefitted from playing under-23s football this season is defender Arbenit Xhemajli, who needed game time after over a year out with a serious knee injury.

The centre-back, 23, made his first League One appearance for Sunderland last week, impressing in the side’s 3-0 win at Wigan.

“It’s great for Arby, he’s a fantastic lad,” added Proctor.

“He’s shown a fantastic desire to get back from his injury and has had a lot of setbacks.

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“That has to be difficult for any player but especially a player who is playing away from home in a foreign country.

“I’m absolutely delighted for Arby to get his start and his performance was excellent.

“I think everyone at the football club was really pleased for him because he’s such a great lad.”

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

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