The weekend just got off to a fantastic start for Sunderland supporters as news came from the club this morning that teenage midfielder Bali Mumba has signed his first professional contract with the club - a three year deal which keeps him at the club until the summer of 2021.
The 17-year old England international is highly thought of within the world of football, so tying down a player who is one of the most talented in his age group right across the country is truly a coup for both Sunderland AFC and first team manager Jack Ross.
Speaking to SAFC.com about the news, Mumba said:
I am delighted to sign this because it has been a long wait. It is what I have been dreaming about since I was a kid. All the hard work is beginning to pay off and my family and I are all buzzing about it.
It is a proud day for us all – I am just delighted to be able to stay at this club. My family have done so much for me over the years. They have helped me get here on a daily basis and for them I am truly grateful.
To share it with them is amazing because they deserve this bit. They have done so much to help me get to where I am now and I am just so thankful to have them by my side.
It has been an amazing few months for me at this club. I can still remember my first day, how it was like and where I am now. I am truly grateful and thankful for everything everyone has done to help me get to where I am now, but this is where the hard work starts again.
Jack Ross was also understandably buoyed by the news, adding:
We are delighted to be able to retain our best young players and our most promising players. I think for the club as a whole it is a really good reflection on the academy.
They have brought him through and now he wants to stay. He is undoubtedly someone who will attract attention throughout the country because of his ability but hopefully it is a real statement of our intent about how we want to move the club forward.
At a time when Sunderland’s academy has proven to be easy pickings for top clubs since our drop into the third tier last summer, managing to secure Mumba’s future with the club - for the next three years at least - is a fantastic piece of business that shows despite our plight, we are still an attractive football club to young players looking to make their way in the game.
Where Sam Greenwood and Luca Stevenson have deserted the club to head off and play in the academies of Arsenal and Liverpool respectively, Sunderland have managed to convince the best young talent they have currently at the club that his future is best spent here on Wearside.
This is a huge step in the right direction. Not only for young Bali but for the club, who are trying their best to convince a whole host of other young players to commit their future to playing for Sunderland ahead of their old deals expiring.
It’s no secret that Mumba is a player that interests all of the top clubs in England - for example, when Chris Coleman attempted to bring Ben Woodburn to Sunderland on loan from Liverpool in January, one of the conditions set by the Merseysiders during negotiations was that they’d get Mumba as part of the deal. Scouts from all over the country have been watching his progress for years, and will have been buoyed further by Mumba’s success when playing right through the younger age groups for England.
As the club look to become self-sustaining whilst also making progress in climbing back up the leagues, ensuring that talented players like Mumba become focal to whatever we do on the pitch is massively important.
The fact is that if Mumba plays 100 games for Sunderland by the time he turns 20, he’s very likely to either make the club a lot of money, or be part of a team that lands back in the top flight.
There are no guarantees, of course, but a sensible person would recognise that a young player is best served playing regularly and being afforded opportunities whilst working under a manager that recognises and appreciates their talent, as opposed to heading off to the academy of a top four Premier League club where the likelihood of them getting first team football seems near impossible.
In signing this new deal, Mumba’s future is secure and with that out of the way it’s time for him to knuckle down and continue his development.
It may seem premature, but potentially going out on loan in January to play first team football away from Sunderland could be on the cards - and it’s the path that practically all of Sunderland’s academy successes over the years have gone down before becoming regular fixtures in the first team.
Good luck Bali. As the owner said on Twitter this morning, the hard work starts now.
Congratulations!!! The hard work begins now. Well done Bali - I am sure the fans like me cannot wait to watch your development over the coming years ⚪️ ⚪️— stewart donald (@stewartdonald3) November 2, 2018