Kimpioka’s good form continues
Benji Kimpioka went out on international duty late last week after starting for Sunderland during their 3-1 win over Carlisle United in the Checkatrade Trophy.
The young forward featured in both games in Sweden under-18s double-header against Romania on Friday and Sunday. He won a penalty in the first game which Romania went on to win 2-1 and then scored a late equaliser in Sunday’s game, only for Romania to win it late on.
You can see his goal in the video below (from the 1:44 mark).
After the Friday’s game, the player spoke to the Sweden national team’s official website about his experiences with Sunderland.
The youngster said it was fun to make his debut and the fact he scored gives him even more motivation:
It was very fun to get my debut. I’m grateful for the confidence I get from the coach. Scoring a goal in the cup was a big bonus and something that motivates me to work even harder to get more chances.
Kimpioka then talked about the differences between academy football and first team football but says the pressure that creates is something he thrives on:
It’s a big difference to get to work out and play first team football with professional players who live with football full time. It’s also a lot more pressure, which I love to play with. It’s a dream to do it at this age. I’m grateful for it while I want more. That motivates me.
It’s a difference to play an under-23 match with maybe 1000 people compared to playing with the first team and it’s 30,000 who are watching and judging you. The demands are much higher from your teammates as well. I like it because then you get the best of yourself all the time.
He also discussed the trouble at the club for the last couple of years, with the first team being relegated two seasons in a row:
It did not affect us youth players so much. Then I played in the under-18 team and we were still in our Premier League. But the aura around the club was not the same. It was a tough period where many were kicked. The fans were not happy that the club went down two years in a row, but now there is a big change going on and we have a great chance to come back.
The goal is to get up. Sunderland has always been a big club and played in the highest leagues in England. We are trying to get back there. First to the Championship and then to the Premier League. It’s a tough task, but we’re ready for it.
Those relegations have meant more academy products have received first team action than they may have if we had stayed up and Kimpioka says they must take that opportunity when it comes along:
Yes, they have increased. I’ve had some chances and even got started. Many other young players in the club have also had the chance. There are many chances for us young, then it’s time for you to take the opportunity when it comes.
He was asked what his hopes were for the rest of the season and responded by saying he was interested in hopes, he is only interested in what he can do now to get more chances:
Many often have high hopes about themselves and their club. I like to focus more on the moment. What I can do now to get new chances.
I can always work harder than my teammate does. Always have your feet on the ground and not float away on clouds just because you’ve done well in a few games. It’s not enough, you have to be consistent to earn your place.
The 18-year-old was thankful for former Sunderland duo Joel Asoro and Oscar Krusnell, with the Swedish pair helping him settle at the club:
From my first day here both he and Oscar Krusnell [now playing at Hammarby] were very helpful. Then I saw how Joel got the chance with the first team early and did well. That motivated me very much to see. I always got help from him too. He told us what was required and so. Now he is in Swansea and I’m very happy for him.
Finally, Kimpioka says he is grateful for where he is now but is keen to be the best he can possible be:
Many want to live for football and it is clear that I want it too. But I focus on working hard and always being the best I can be. Then we’ll see where it takes me. It’s easy to say that you want to live for football, but it’s important to do that too. I do not want to betray myself but always try to be my best I’ll see where God takes me. I’m grateful about where I am now.
Mavrias set for SPFL move
Former Sunderland winger Charis Mavrias is set to join Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership.
According to the Edinburgh Evening News, the Greek international has been on trial at Easter Road in recent weeks and has suitably impressed Hibs’ boss Neil Lennon to be offered a contract, which is expected to be finalised early this week.
The 24-year-old join Sunderland from Panathinaikos for £2.5m back in 2013 but could never cement a place in the first team squad and after loan spells with Panathinaikos and Fortuna Dusseldorf, he joined German side Karlsruher in 2016.
He spent last season playing for Croatian side HNK Rijeka, which included an appearance in a Europa League win over AC Milan but will now continue his career in Scotland.
McLaughlin misses out
Jon McLaughlin was called up by Scotland for their fixtures against Israel and Portugal but was an unused substitute in both games.
Allan McGregor started for the Scots in their 2-1 Nations League loss at Israel and former Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon replaced the Rangers ‘keeper for their 3-1 defeat by Portugal.